Yemen’s Saleh Agrees to Step Down in Exchange for Immunity, Official Says
By Mohammed Hatem and Glen Carey - Apr 23, 2011
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan that allows him to cede power in exchange for immunity, a government official said.
Saleh agreed to transfer power to a deputy within 30 days and to elections 60 days after that, Tarik al-Shami, spokesman at the ruling General People’s Congress, said in a telephone interview today. The opposition must end protests and accept immunity for Saleh and his aides and all terms of the GCC plan, al-Shami said.
Saleh would be the third leader forced from office since popular unrest spread through the Middle East, resulting in the ouster of Hozni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.
Tensions escalated last month when police and snipers killed 46 demonstrators in Sana’a, the capital, prompting several military and government officials to abandon Saleh’s regime. A total of 109 protesters have been killed since Feb. 11, according to Majed al-Madhaji, a spokesman at the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights in Sana’a.
The General People’s Congress, Saleh’s party, has agreed to the Gulf-sponsored arrangement, it said in a statement on its website earlier today.
“When they said the ruling party accepted the plan, it was clear that he accepted it, as Saleh is the president of the party,” al-Shami said. The party told the GCC Secretary-General Abdel Latif al-Zayyani that it endorsed the plan, he said.
The Joint Meeting Parties, a coalition of six opposition groups, also agreed to the GCC plan. They won’t participate in a national unity government under the leadership of Saleh during the 30 days he remains in power, said Mohammed al-Sabri, a leader in the opposition. The opposition coalition also will support the peoples’ right to protest, he said.
Saleh met on April 21 with GCC Secretary-General al-Zayyani to resolve the crisis. The council, which includes Saudi Arabia
, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, has held separate meetings this month with representatives of Yemen’s ruling General People’s Congress and the opposition.
Saleh said earlier today that the opposition was pushing the Arabian Peninsula country toward a civil war.
“They want to drag the area to civil war and we refuse to be dragged to civil war,” Saleh said in a speech to the military and students, the official Saba news service said. He said power should change “through the ballot box and not through a coup,” and those who want power “should be brave and call for early elections, whether presidential or parliamentary elections,” according to Saba.
Protests continued today in the city of Taiz, where crowds demanded the end of Saleh’s rule, Rashad Mohammed, an eyewitness, said by telephone. A majority of the city’s shops were closed for a general strike, he said. In Aden, more than 90 percent of the shops, schools and businesses were closed Saturday, said Marwan al-Yafee, an eyewitness.
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