Yemen's Saleh signs power transfer deal

Ban Ki-moon says Saleh will immediately head to NY for medical treatment after signing agreement on Saudi television.

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DUBAI - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf initiative on Wednesday to hand over power to his deputy as part of a proposal to end months of protests that have pushed the Arab country to the brink of civil war.
Saudi state television broadcast live images of Saleh signing the accord in the presence of Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef. Yemeni opposition officials signed the accord after Saleh.
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Earlier, Saleh told UN chief Ban Ki-moon he will come to New York for medical treatment immediately after signing the deal.
It was the fourth attempt to wrap up a power transfer accord that Saleh backed out of on three previous occasions at the last minute, fueling turmoil that has bolstered al-Qaida militants next door to Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil producer.
"He told me that he will come to New York to take medical treatment immediately after signing this agreement," Ban said.
This is the fourth attempt to wrap up a power transfer deal that Saleh has backed out of on three previous occasions at the last minute.
Saleh was previously forced to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries suffered in an apparent assassination attempt in June after the last time he ducked out of the deal, which ushered in street battles that devastated parts of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
"If he (Saleh) comes to New York, I'll be happy to meet him," Ban said.
Activists who have camped in central Sanaa have demanded Saleh end his 33 years of rule now.
Government troops skirmished with gunmen loyal to a powerful opposition tribal leader in the capital and some clashes were reported in the southern city of Taiz.
"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 reported earlier.
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.
Under the GCC plan, Saleh will shift all his powers to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who would form a new government with the opposition and call for an early presidential election within three months.
Months of protests have rekindled conflicts with Yemen's Islamist militants and separatists, threatening anarchy in a country Washington regards as a front line against al-Qaida.
The unrest has also raised fear of civil war on the borders of Saudi Arabia, a crucial strategic ally of the United States. The fears are shared by Saleh's erstwhile US allies, who had long backed him in their fight against al-Qaida.