|Members of Yemen's ruling party have been discussing a Gulf initiative to allow a handover of power [EPA]
A delegation from Yemen's ruling party has headed to Saudi Arabia to seek permission from President Ali Abdullah Saleh for his deputy to negotiate a power transfer plan with the opposition, according to a party official.
"The delegation is heading to Riyadh to meet the president and ask him to authorise his deputy to start the dialogue" with the opposition, the official told the AFP news agency, requesting anonymity.
The decision was said to have been taken during a meeting of the politburo of the General People's Congress (GPC) on Wednesday, which discussed a plan proposed by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
The plan aims to end months of anti-government protests by easing Saleh out of office before his term ends in 2013.
"It has been agreed that Saleh would issue a decree vesting his deputy with constitutional powers to hold talks with the parties that have signed the Gulf initiative and agree on a timetable and mechanism to implement it," said the GPC's Assistant Secretary-General Sultan Barakani.
He said that the implementation of the plan proposed by the GCC "would lead to holding early presidential elections that would guarantee a peaceful and democratic transition of power".
The plan, drawn up by the six Gulf states in co-ordination with the European Union and the United States, called for the immediate formation of a government of national unity with Saleh stepping down a month later in return for a promise of immunity, but the president has repeatedly refused to sign it.
Saleh's ruling party has been debating a roadmap created by UN envoy Jamal Benomar to implement the Gulf initiative with some amendments to its timetable.
According to opposition party sources, the UN plan called for the formal transfer of power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi by Saleh, who has been in Saudi Arabia since early June being treated for blast wounds sustained in a bomb attack on his palace.
The UN plan also calls for the immediate launch of negotiations on the formation of a government of national reconciliation, which would rule the country for an interim period of three or six months during which preparations would be made for a presidential election.
The interim government would also oversee the reorganisation of the armed forces, which have split over the past nine months, with some key units defecting to the protest movement.