Saleh accepts deal to step down within month

Yemen opposition says it accepts president's resignation but will not form national unity government; Gulf Arab plan gives Saleh immunity.

By REUTERS
April 23, 2011 22:30
2 minute read.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 Reu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

SANAA - Yemen's ruling party said on Saturday it had accepted a political plan for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down within weeks, and the opposition also welcomed the main elements of the Gulf Arab initiative.

Protests in Yemen, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, are now in their third month and bring tens of thousands of people onto the streets almost every day demanding an end to endemic poverty and corruption.

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Scores of protesters have been killed.

"The ruling party informed the foreign ministers of the GCC of their acceptance of the Gulf initiative in full," party spokesman Tariq Shami told Reuters.

After years of backing Saleh as a bulwark against regional instability and the activities of al Qaeda's active Yemeni branch, Saudi Arabia and the United States had begun pressing him to negotiate with the opposition on handing over power.

The Gulf Cooperation Council plan stipulates that Saleh will hand over power to his vice-president one month after an agreement is signed with opposition forces, and be granted immunity from prosecution for himself, his family and aides.

There was no immediate comment from the GCC.

Immunity was a central element of the Gulf plan that the opposition had insisted it would not accept.

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But the opposition coalition said on Saturday that it would now agree to the main elements of the plan.

"The opposition welcomes the initiative with the exception of the formation of a national unity government," said the current chairman of the opposition, Yassin Noman.

Opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan told Al Jazeera television that the necessary basis of trust was lacking for the opposition to join a national unity government, but made clear the opposition did not see this as a fundamental obstacle to the implementation of the plan.

"The vice-president will take over for a certain period and then we will see what happens," he said.


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