US-backed and Saudi-led GCC still pushing President Saleh
Source: Gulf News,
By Jumana Al Tamimi
Dubai: The GCC states are pushing for a deal to see Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down soon.
"We hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down," Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani was quoted as saying by the official Qatari news agency (QNA) Thursday.
The plan could be Saleh's "last chance for a safe exit", according to Mohammad Qah'tan, the spokesman for Yemeni opposition parties. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has invited the two Yemeni sides for talks in Riyadh on ways to end the current crisis.
The Yemeni opposition has accepted an Arab Gulf plan to end the escalating crisis in the country amid growing calls for Saleh to step down. However, the plan is still awaiting Saleh's approval before holding talks in Riyadh on the transfer of power in Yemen, opposition leaders said yesterday.
"Yes, we have accepted it," Mohammad Qah'tan, spokesperson of the Yemeni opposition political parties said of the Arab Gulf plan. The plan was discussed during a meeting between the opposition and the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar to Yemen on Wednesday.
"The plan calls for the stepping down of the president [Saleh], guarantee him and his family immunity from prosecution, and the formation of a national unity government," Qah'tan explained to Gulf News.
However, Qah'tan said Wednesday's discussions have not mentioned any potential candidate's name for the president's position. He said the talks focused on handing Saleh's powers to his deputy, who will be according to the constitution the interim president for a transitional period that can be agreed on.
"We have submitted few remarks that don't change the core of it [plan]," he said, noting that one of them related to the inclusion of the youth movement protesting in Sana'a for more than two months in the decision-making process in the future.
While Qah'tan said the plan was still awaiting the Yemeni president's response, Saleh's spokesperson Ahmad Al Sufi said he can't give more details at present.
"The issue is still under discussion and the there are no initiatives, but rather an invitation only," Al Sufi told Gulf News.
Details, Al Sufi said, are related to the concerned parties and the topics under discussion.
While another meeting between Saleh and the Gulf ambassadors is expected soon to give Saleh's response, the Yemeni senior presidential official added the date of the suggested talks in Riyadh between the opposition and the president is yet to be set.
"The Saudi ambassador is handling the contacts related to Riyadh talks," Al Sufi said. The Yemeni opposition, meanwhile, is ready to head to Saudi Arabia "at any minute", said Qah'tan.
Meanwhile, in the streets, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a. Thousands of women protesters also took to the streets of Amran, north of Sana'a demanding Saleh to quit. Saleh's treatment of the protest movement, now in its third month, has hardened. The shooting of 46 protesters by police and snipers in the capital, Sana'a, on March 18 sparked a wave of defections from the regime.