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A coalition of Gulf allies has begun efforts to convince Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, to step down in response to anti-government protests that have swept the country in recent weeks.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations will convene a meeting among themselves and Yemeni representatives in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, in coming days, though an exact date has yet to be set.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, prime minister of Qatar, told reporters the GCC nations would be sending a proposal to Saleh and the opposition in Yemen.

"We hope that we will strike a deal," he said. "We have been meeting for the last few days in Riyadh and we're sending a proposal for him and the opposition and we hope a meeting will be held between his team and the opposition to try to find a way out of this problem."

One Gulf official told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday that "the proposal is to have a governing council grouping all the various political parties and tribes for a period that would not exceed three months".

The suggestion reached by the Riyadh meeting involves Saleh, in power for 32 years, agreeing to stand down and handing his powers.    

The transitional period would lead to elections, the official said.

Saleh's government has reportedly welcomed the GCC's invitation to talks, as has General Ali Mohsen, who switched his allegiance in March and declared he would side with the anti-government protesters.

Mohsen said he would welcome the negotiations on "the basis of achieving the demands of the peaceful youth revolution," Reuters said.

Demonstrations continue

Meanwhile, thousands of people again took to the streets of Sanaa, the capital, on Wednesday, in another day of protest at Saleh's continued rule. More than 100 people have been killed aince the protests began. Rooftop gunmen shot and killed 52 protesters during the bloodiest day of the unrest on March 18 in Sanaa.

Saleh has ruled Yemen for 32 years and has served as a useful ally for the United States and other Western countries against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local affiliate of the extremist group.

But the Americans have recently shifted their stance in favour of ushering Saleh out, according to reports.

In Aden province on Wednesday, security sources opened fire and shot tear gas to disperse hundreds of Aden University students in the city of Khormaksar.

Students had closed roads, demanding the release of those detained earlier in the day, accusing the regime of committing massacres against protestors in Sanaa and Taiz.

Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies