Yemen deal off as Saleh refuses to sign


A POLITICAL deal, aimed at bringing to an end months of turmoil in Yemen, was again thrown into doubt yesterday after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign the Gulf-brokered plan that would see him leave office in 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Abdullatif Al-Zayani, secretary general of the Gulf Co-operation Council, left Sana’a empty handed on Saturday after a meeting with Mr Saleh, in which the president was expected to sign the long-negotiated deal.

In response, representatives of the political opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties, said they would no longer travel to the Saudi capital Riyadh yesterday, where they were due to add their signatures.

Mr Saleh’s refusal marked the latest in several twists and turns of Yemen’s fragile political dealings over the past six weeks. But government officials maintained the veteran president’s support for the initiative yesterday, while Gulf foreign ministers met in Saudi Arabia to discuss how to proceed after the apparent collapse of the initiative.

The deal stated that Mr Saleh, his family and aides, would be granted immunity from prosecution and within 30 days he would hand over power to his deputy, before elections 60 days later.

But analysts believe Mr Saleh may now be trying to add further conditions to the plan that was provisionally accepted by both political sides last week.