Sunday, 15 May 2011

Gulf mediator to meet Yemen president amid violence

Source: AFP 15\05\2011

A Gulf mediator was to meet President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday in a new bid to resolve Yemen's political crisis despite scepticism from the opposition and as violence raged across the country.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani flew in to Sanaa on Saturday "to achieve a settlement that can satisfy all parties," sources close to the two parties said.

But the opposition seemed unimpressed by Zayani's new attempt to convince Yemen's political rivals to sign a Gulf-brokered plan that would see Saleh out of office within 30 days.

"This mediation does not concern us anymore. Its proponents are concerned about President Saleh and not the Yemeni people who are peacefully resisting a bloody repression," a leading member of Yemen's parliamentary opposition Sultan al-Atwan told AFP.

The opposition has not been informed of Zayani's visit in which he is reportedly to bring "new ideas" to convince Saleh to sign the initiative.

"Our Gulf brothers are only concerned with satisfying Saleh, who is trying to buy time in an attempt to save his regime," said Atwan.

However, chief opposition negotiator, Mohamed Salem Basandou, would meet Zayani "if he has anything new" to offer and also "to inform him of our position," said Atwani.

Zayani was to meet Saleh and members of his ruling General People's Congress in the hope of achieving progress in the mediation efforts that stalled after the veteran leader refused to sign.

During Zayani's last visit to the impoverished country in April, Saleh had said he would resign only as party leader, contrary to the demands of the opposition.

The president says that under the constitution he should serve out his current term of office, which expires in 2013.

The opposition will not meet with Zayani "unless president Saleh agrees to sign the plan as it was proposed in April," another member of the opposition said on Sunday.

The Gulf plan, which lost Qatar's support on Thursday, proposes the formation of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to deadly protests which have shaken the country since late January.

The president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days and this would be followed by presidential election within two months. In exchange, Saleh and his top aides would be granted immunity from prosecution.

Parliamentary opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan has said the GCC initiative was "dead" following the pullout of Qatar, whose prime minister angered Sanaa by stating the Yemeni president must go.

Tension was also simmering on ground as police, armed civilians, and Republican Guards, led by Saleh's son Ahmed, opened fire on demonstrators late Saturday in Taez, south of Sanaa, killing one and wounding 34 others by live rounds, medics and witnesses said.

"Three of the wounded are clinically dead," a medical official told AFP.

Masked armed men patrolled neighbourhoods in Taez, Yemen's second-largest city, as they fired in the air causing panic among residents late at night, witnesses told AFP.

At least 180 people have been killed in three months of protests against Saleh's regime, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.

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