• Voting gets under way in Yemen’s one-man election
• Protests spread in the Syrian capital
• Russia to boycott international conference on Syria
8.54am: Voting seems to have got off to a brisk start in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. However, some voters are boycotting because there is only one candidate. There are also some grumbles about the $48m cost of the election, given that the result is a foregone conclusion.
Here are a few of today’s tweets:
i think we can start calling Hadi, Mr. President. we dont really have to wait until the votes are counted. #yemen
— Atiaf Alwazir (@WomanfromYemen) February 21, 2012
— Rose Marie(@rosemarie1570) February 21, 2012
Polling station in Sanaa busy, near-jovial, women here too, lots of talk of building a new #Yemen.
— tom finn (@tomfinn2) February 21, 2012
— Anthony Carpenter (@Carpe177) February 21, 2012
8.37am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. Here is a roundup of the situation this morning:
• Yemenis have begun voting for their new president this morning. The result is a foregone conclusion, since Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is the only candidate.
• Syrian forces opened fire with live ammunition on demonstrators in Damascus overnight as unrest continued to spread in the capital. At least least four people were wounded, according to activists.
• Russia says it will not attend this week’s international conference in Tunis aimed at seeking political change in Syria. In a statement quoted by AFP, the foreign ministry said the meeting had been called “for the purpose of supporting one side against another in an internal conflict”.
• The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is negotiating with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters for a temporary ceasefire to bring life-saving aid to civilians hardest hit by the conflict.
from Brian Whitaker, Haroon Siddique