By Abeer Allam 14/06/2011
Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s acting president, and the country’s opposition parties failed to agree on a plan for a transition of power in their first meeting since president Ali Abdullah Saleh was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after the June 3 attack on his presidential compound.
But they agreed to form a committee to rein in inflammatory media rhetoric to prepare the country for a “democratic transition in the future”, according to opposition members.
Saba, the state news agency, said the two sides discussed calming security and media tensions as a first step towards starting the political process.
Yemen has been engulfed in a four-month-long political crisis, and Monday’s meeting between Mr Hadi and the coalition of Yemen’s main opposition parties followed mounting pressure from western and Gulf countries for an end to the deadlock.
Members of the opposition said they wanted to discuss the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, which stipulates holding an election and the resignation of the president, but Mr Hadi insisted on limiting the discussion to restoring normalcy and main services and the withdrawal from the capital of the al-Ahmar armed militia, Mr Saleh’s main political rivals.
“It was an excellent start, we discussed how we can join efforts to build a better future,” said Mohammed al-Mutawakel, an opposition leader. “Political reform is the best way to guarantee security.”
In the capital Sana’a, a ceasefire has held between forces loyal to Mr Saleh and tribesmen of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar of the powerful Hashid tribe, to which Mr Saleh belongs. Bloody street battles embroiled the capital Sana’a two weeks ago after Mr Saleh backed out of the GCC plan for the third time. Dozens of people were killed and thousands fled Sana’a.
Most of the capital is under government control, with checkpoints and roadblocks placed in the main streets. But areas leading to the Siteen road, where protesters demanding the ouster of Mr Saleh since February are camped, are controlled by checkpoints of General Ali Mohsen, the powerful army office who joined the opposition in March.
A senior government official told the Financial Times this week that political transition was “out of the question” before Mr Saleh’s return because of the attempt against the president’s life.
Analysts say the West and the Gulf may back off from insisting on an immediate transition of power in the face of resistance from Mr Saleh’s supporters and family who still control key security and army posts. Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, had earlier said the US wanted a “non-violent transition that is consistent with Yemen’s own constitution”.
Mr Saleh has insisted that he will not give up his constitutional rights as president and resign before the end of his term in 2013.
“It is going to be a very long process, each side insists on their position and they are not budging,’’ said Mohamed Abu.