Gulf mediators urge Yemen's Saleh to quit

Plan calls for a unity government to be formed and for the president to step down in three months.

    Gulf Arab mediators seeking an end to Yemen's unrest have called for a three-month transition plan that would end with a presidential election, a government official has said.

    Their proposal, which called for an immediate end to protests, would see Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, step down within a month of signing the initiative and hand over powers to his vice-president.

    According to the plan, reported on Thursday, a unity government led by the opposition would work to organise presidential elections within two months of Saleh's resignation.

    The Gulf Cooperation Council proposed "the formation of a national unity government with 50 per cent held by the ruling party, 40 per cent by the opposition and 10 per cent by other parties," an official said.

    "The president would transfer his powers to his deputy, and then the protests would end," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

    Following this "the president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days".

    A day earlier, Saleh said he would "resist" calls to resign and would abide by the constitution in any transfer of power.

    Addressing a women's group in Sanaa, the capital, on Wednesday, he reiterated he would relinquish power only through elections.

    "We will continue to resist ... undaunted and committed to constitutional legitimacy, while rejecting the plots and coups," Saba news agency quoted Saleh as saying.

    "Let those who want to attain power rely on the ballot box. Change can only come about through elections and within the framework of constitutional legitimacy," Saleh, whose term runs until 2013, said.

    Saleh's statement comes after members of the UN Security Council failed to come up with a joint statement on Yemen after adding the country's crisis to their agenda for the first time.

    UN call for restraint

    Members of the UN Security Council called for restraint and political dialogue in Yemen as the 15-nation body discussed the violence there for the first time on Tuesday, diplomats said.

    But the closed-door meeting, requested by Germany, failed to agree on a public statement on Yemen, where anti-government protests are in their third month, because some envoys wanted to consult their capitals, the diplomats said.

    "We expressed concern about the situation in Yemen, which is deteriorating. We called for restraint and we appealed to the parties to enter into a dialogue," German Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters after the meeting.

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    "Most of us in the council expressed explicitly support for the mediation efforts of the Gulf Co-operation Council."

    US ambassador Susan Rice told journalists that "many delegations, including our own, stressed the importance of an end to violence and a political process that results swiftly in a credible transition".

    Germany and Lebanon urged the council to issue a statement, but some envoys disagreed, diplomats said. Asked who had done so, one Western diplomat said "the usual suspects" - an apparent reference to Russia and China, often reluctant to take action that could be seen as intruding in a country's affairs.

    A statement could be issued later this week when instructions are received from governments, diplomats said.

    Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, has faced protests since late January calling for his departure that have cost more than 130 lives.

    Munir al Mawri, a Yemeni-American journalist, told Al Jazeera that "Saleh will practically be unable to rule Yemen without the support of the GCC".

    "He can try to buy time but he knows very well that he is losing and that he should leave as soon as possible," al Mawri said.

    "He is concerned about the consequences after he leaves. He knows how many crimes he has committed in his country, especially after killing so many protesters.  By asking for guarantees for not being prosecuted he is admitting that he committed crimes."

    Youth groups called for nationwide marches by millions of people in protest at the killing of protesters on Tuesday, stressing their rejection of any deal that excludes Saleh's immediate departure.

    Confrontations raged on between security forces and anti-Saleh protesters, with medics and witnesses reporting that eight people were shot dead since Tuesday, including a passer-by and a policeman.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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