|Pro-democracy protesters called for fresh demonstrations even as an opposition bloc agrees to a Gulf deal [Reuters]|
Yemen’s opposition has agreed to take part in a transitional government under a Gulf-negotiated peace plan for embattled leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside in a month in exchange for immunity for him and his family.
A spokesman for an opposition coalition said on Monday that his group had received assurances in order to accept the deal.
“We have given our final accord to the [Gulf] initiative after having received assurances from our brothers and American and European friends on our objections to certain clauses in the plan,” Mohammed Qahtan said.
He added that the Common Front, a Yemeni parliamentary opposition coalition, had notified Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) secretary-general Abdullatif al-Zayani of the decision.
But many pro-democracy protesters, who are not members of the coalition that agreed to the peace talks, appear to be unconvinced by the Gulf-proposed deal and have called for fresh demonstrations, as security forces continued their crackdown.
Yemen’s Western and Gulf Arab allies have tried to mediate a solution to a three-month crisis in which protesters, inspired by revolts against autocratic regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, have demonstrated relentlessly for the end of Saleh’s 32-year-long rule.
As opposition leaders met in Sanaa to discuss the plan, Yemeni forces killed at least two protesters at separate rallies outside the capital, witnesses said.
Immunity for Saleh
Under the Gulf proposal, Saleh can stay in power for a further 30 days before stepping down, and the opposition had earlier said it would stay out of a unity government.
But on Monday, the opposition coalition, made up of Islamists and leftists, had changed it mind.
The plan has yet to be formally accepted.
An opposition refusal to take part could stymie the plan, and opposition sources have told Reuters that the US ambassador had pushed the group to come on board fully in a meeting on Sunday.
Seeing political allies desert him en masse, the Yemeni leader agreed in principle to a proposal by GCC foreign ministers to step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself, his family and top aides.
But analysts say that allowing Saleh to stay on for another month could leave a room for further trouble in the poorest Arab state long on the brink of collapse.
The risk of Yemen descending into chaos is a major worry for Saudi Arabia and the United States, which fear an active al-Qaeda wing could strengthen a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.
Hours before the opposition bloc announced its acceptance of the GCC deal, two anti-government protesters are reported to have been killed in separate clashes across the country.
One man was shot dead in the city of Ibb after plainclothes security men opened fire on Monday to halt a protest march, the Reuters news agency reported quoting medical sources.
Another 30 demonstrators were wounded, eight by bullets and the rest by stones and batons, the sources told Reuters.
The second protester was killed in the province of Al-Baida in Yemen’s south.
In Taiz, also in the south, 250 people were treated for inhaling tear gas and 50 were wounded – 25 by bullets and 25 by stones, medical sources said