Monday, 11 April 2011

Yemen opposition rejects Gulf plan, Saleh accepts

Source: Gulf News, By Jumana Al Tamimi


Dubai: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday welcomed Gulf "efforts" to end his country's political crisis, saying he was ready for a "peaceful" transfer of power in a constitutional way, according to a statement from his office.

"In compliance with statements [he] made several times... his excellency the president has no reservation against transferring power peacefully and smoothly within the framework of the constitution," said the statement.

In focus: Unrest in the Middle East

The statement said that Yemeni president again "welcomes efforts exerted by brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council to help in finding a solution for the current crisis in Yemen".

But it fell short of saying clearly whether he accepted a direct GCC proposal calling on Saleh to step down and ensure a peaceful transition of power to his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

"The Yemeni Republic stresses that it will deal positively with the (GCC) statement as a base for dialogue," said the statement, which came a day after a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

“There is a certain Yemeni desire in positive cooperation with the Gulf statement,” Ahamd Al Sufi, Saleh's spokesperson, told Gulf News, describing the GCC plan as “a noble Gulf effort”. Al Sufi added the presidency looks at the statement as “a suitable base for dialogue.”

However, an opposition spokesperson said the alliance of opposition parties preferred not to take any position before receiving it officially.

“We supported the first initiative. But we have not, yet, taken any position vise-a-vie the amendment. We are waiting to receive the plan officially before we announce our official position,” said Mohamed Qahtan, spokesperson of the opposition told Gulf News.

Saleh, who has been in power since 1978 and faces fierce protests demanding his departure since late January, on Friday rejected such a proposal for his exit made by Qatar's prime minister as a "blatant interference in Yemeni affairs".

Yemen anti-regime protesters have, however, rejected a proposal from mediating Gulf states that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh should pass power to his deputy, a leading activist said Monday.

"We are not concerned by any solution negotiated between the regime and the opposition that does not answer our main demand: the fall of the regime and its figures," said Adel Al Rabyi, from the Youth for Change coalition of protest groups that have led demonstrations across the country since late January.

"We do not accept the hijacking of our revolution," Rabyi told AFP, insisting that he spoke on behalf of all youth groups in Sana'a and other major cities hit by deadly protests.

Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Sunday called on Yemen’s Saleh to hand over power to his Vice-President Abdraboo Mansour Hadi and allow the opposition to lead a transitional unity government, reports said.

The GCC will facilitate a meeting in Saudi Arabia for Saleh’s government and the opposition to discuss Yemen’s unity, security and stability, said a statement after the foreign ministers’ meeting. No date was scheduled for such a meeting.

An opposition-led transitional government would prepare for constitutional reforms and new elections in Yemen, the statement added.

The GCC foreign ministers’ second meeting in a week underscored the group’s keen to resolve the Yemen crisis.

“It is vital to reach a solution to the current crisis in Yemen, which has “special status to all GCC countries” by consensus, said Turki Al Sudairi, Editor-in-Chief of the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh.

Mediation efforts

“Otherwise, even if the crisis ended with reconciliation, another crisis will erupt after a few months or even less,” Al Sudairi told Gulf News, stressing that the GCC countries are “keen to end the Yemeni conflict”.

Saleh has rejected a Qatari statement hoping to reach a deal with Saleh to step down. Saleh slammed the statement as “blatant interference in Yemeni affairs.”

Yemen responded by recalling its ambassador to Doha and shutting down the office of Al Jazeera satellite TV in Sana’a and revoking its permit.

Many Yemeni opposition figures hoped the GCC would continue its mediation efforts.

“Stability in Yemen is the stability of the GCC, and security in Yemen is security of the GCC,” Sultan Al Atwani, Secretary-General of the Nasserite Unionist People’s Organisation, told Gulf News.

Al Atwani is also a member of the higher council of the coalition of the political parties.

Meanwhile, at least one person was killed and nearly 40 people injured in fresh protests in Taiz and Sana’a

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