UN envoy returns to Yemen amid unrest

A United Nations diplomat is in Sanaa to push Gulf-backed deal for president to step down as more attacks hit Taiz.

    One person is reported dead and eight injured after Yemeni police fired on protesters in Taiz on Thursday [Reuters]

    A UN envoy has returned to Yemen to try to persuade President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down under a Gulf-brokered plan to halt months of unrest, which has flared again in the city of Taiz.

    One person was killed and eight were wounded in the Thursday shooting in Taiz, Yemen's commercial capital, some 200km south of Sanaa, after demonstrators called for Saleh to be put on trial, a witness told the Reuters news agency.

    Three soldiers were killed when fighters on a motorcycle shot at a patrol officer in the southeastern port city of Mukalla, an official in Hadramout province said.

    "If we do not succeed in finalising the negotiations around the Gulf initiative and entering the transitional period, discussions will begin about the next steps, including sanctions,"

    - British Ambassador John Wilks

    In Sanaa, officials said UN envoy Jamal Benomar would meet Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the vice-president, and opposition leaders to try to clinch the deal devised by Yemen's Gulf neighbours to end nine months of protests against Saleh's 33-year rule.

    "I hope this will be an opportunity to solve the issues between the political factions in Yemen," Benomar told state news agency Saba when he arrived in the capital.

    Saleh has three times agreed to the Gulf plan only to pull out of signing at the last minute, but diplomats have warned the veteran leader against backing down again.

    In an interview posted on opposition website al-Sahwa, John Wilks, the British ambassador, said it was time for Saleh to fulfill his pledge to leave office.

    "If we do not succeed in finalising the negotiations around the Gulf initiative and entering the transitional period, discussions will begin about the next steps, including sanctions," Wilks said in comments published in Arabic.

    Yemen has been paralysed by unrest that has taken one of the poorest Arab nations to the brink of civil war, allowing large territories to escape already the weak central government control.

    The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned Yemen's crackdown on protesters and urged Saleh to sign the Gulf deal.

    Benomar's trip follows a French statement that the European Union planned to discuss freezing Saleh's assets.

    If Benomar's mission succeeds, the deal could be signed in mid-November in Saudi Arabia, Yemeni officials said.

    In September Saleh empowered his deputy Hadi to sign in his place.

    Under the deal, Saleh would step down and a national unity government would be formed ahead of early elections. A body would also be set up to restructure the armed forces.

    Until recently, Saleh had objected to some of the conditions of the deal, but European diplomats said he had now acquiesced.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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