Yemeni opposition fails to agree on terms of plan for ending Saleh's rule


THE SETTLEMENT of a deal to bring President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule to an end and grant him immunity from prosecution remained in doubt yesterday after the political opposition failed to accept the plan unconditionally.

The Gulf states-brokered proposal, aimed at resolving Yemen’s three-month crisis, would see Mr Saleh resign and hand over power to his vice-president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, 30 days after signing the agreement. If the deal goes ahead, Mr Saleh would be the third autocratic leader to be forced out of power this year, following in the footsteps of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

The GPC, Yemen’s ruling party, along with its political allies have officially submitted their acceptance to the Gulf Co-operation Council initiative without any conditions, said a spokesman.

But the completion of the deal relies on the equal acceptance by the coalition of opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties. The opposition parties have yet officially to agree to the initiative and hope to negotiate conditions, which may well derail any final agreement.

According to the proposal’s terms, seven days after being formally accepted by both sides, an interim government, split 50-50 between the ruling party and opposition groups, would be formed to oversee election preparations.

Forming a 50-50 split is ridiculous, said an opposition politician. “It takes us back to where we started from and is why the revolution began in the first place.”

Prior to the creation of the interim government, parliament would pass a law granting Mr Saleh, his family and aides immunity from prosecution. Once this is assured Mr Saleh would resign and hand over authority to his vice-president within 30 days. Mr al-Hadi would become acting president and within 60 days elections would be held, leaving the new president to oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

Scepticism remained over the motives behind Mr Saleh’s acceptance of the plan. For the first time since negotiations began over a month ago, the president shrewdly put responsibility to end the political turmoil firmly on the opposition parties, who have boycotted parliament since the end of last year after failing to agree with the Gulf council on electoral reforms.

In a television interview yesterday, Mr Saleh described attempts to oust him as a coup and repeated that he would only give up power through the ballot box.

Mr Saleh has on several occasions in the last weeks, made contradictory comments, throwing confusion into the political mix, already clouded by conflicting messages from the six-party opposition.

The youth movement behind the country’s uprising remained defiant in the face of Mr Saleh’s acceptance of the agreement. Protesters blame Mr Saleh for the deaths of more than 125 demonstrators killed since unrest began in mid-February.

“Ali Saleh cannot be given immunity from his crimes against the Yemeni people. He and his family have blood on their hands,” said activist Hassan Faraan at a protest sit-in outside Sanaa University.