Yemen protests 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DUBAI - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to sign a deal brokered by Gulf states that would ease him from office, Yemeni state media said, after protracted protests against his rule that have crippled the country.
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No more details were given about the signing ceremony, to which opposition representatives were invited. Saleh has backed out of such a deal at the last minute three times already.
The development came after UN envoy Jamal Benomar, with support from US and European diplomats, managed to devise a compromise to implement the power transfer deal crafted by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
"The president... arrived this morning in Riyadh on a visit to the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following an invitation from the Saudi
leadership, to attend the signing of the Gulf initiative and its
operational mechanism," state news agency Saba said.
The political deadlock over protests aimed at ousting Saleh after 33
years of rule has rekindled conflicts with Yemen's Islamist militants
and separatists, threatening anarchy in a country Washington regards as a
front line against al-Qaida.
Saba said Saleh had received a telephone call from UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday to thank him "for his efforts
to extract Yemen out of the crisis in a peaceful way."
The unrest has also raised fear of civil war on the borders of Saudi
Arabia, the world's number one oil exporter and a crucial US ally. The
fears are shared by Saleh's erstwhile US allies who had long backed
him in their fight against al-Qaida.
Benomar said on Tuesday that details of the signing of the accord - a
stage at which it has collapsed before - were being hammered out, after
an agreement in principle.
Diplomats and opposition officials said Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia the
GCC Secretary-General, Abdul Latif Al-Zayyani, refused to go to Sanaa to
attend the signing ceremony. Officials say Zayyani had been embarrassed
before when Saleh kept dignitaries in suspense before he refused to
sign the accord.
Saleh was forced to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries suffered
in an apparent assassination attempt in June after the last time he
spurned the deal, which ushered in street battles that devastated parts
of his capital Sanaa.
Under the GCC plan, Saleh would shift all his powers to his deputy,
Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who will form a new government with the
opposition and call for an early presidential election within three
A Yemeni official said on Tuesday that the accord was facing opposition
from some senior politicians in Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC)
strongly opposed to signing it.
Saleh would keep his title until a new president is elected.
A Yemeni official said that renegade general Ali Mohsen, who broke away
from the Yemeni army after protests began in February, and tribal leader
Sadeq al-Ahmar, who are not part of the accord, may try to obstruct the
Those figures, along with Saleh's son and a nephew who commands a key
paramilitary unit, form a balance of forces on the ground that analysts
say none is likely to tip, making a political resolution the only way
out of Yemen's deadlock.