Yemen’s president and opposition have agreed to sign a Gulf-brokered deal for a transition of power, Al Arabiya reported from Sana’a on Wednesday.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have proposed an exit plan that would see embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office within 30 days.
A top aide to the Yemeni President confirmed the report and told Al Arabiya that signing would take place on Wednesday.
Yahia Abu Asbaa, a prominent member of the Yemeni Opposition told Al Arabiya, that President Saleh and representatives of the opposition would sign the GCC Initiative final document later Wednesday.
He added that there was no obstacle now that could engender the failure of the initiative. However, pretty much the same sentiments were expressed on earlier occasions when Mr. Saleh and his opponents had agreed to the GCC deal, only for it to collapse mainly because of the president’s recalcitrance.
Today’s announcement came after the Secretary General Abdul Latif Zayani of the GCC, returned to the Yemeni capital, Sana’a on Saturday for a three-day visit to try to revive the Gulf initiative.
President Saleh, 65, has stalled by refusing to sign in his capacity as president, insisting on endorsing the agreement only as leader of the General People's Congress (GPC), contrary to the demands of the opposition.
He has said that under the constitution he should serve out his current term of office, which expires in 2013.
But on the Obama Administration—in whose favor Mr. Saleh was for a long time—contacted him last Thursday and urged him to sign the deal “now,” according to Agence-France Presse.
The Gulf plan, which has lost Qatar’s support, proposes the formation of a government of national unity, Mr. Saleh transferring power to his vice president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and an end to deadly protests, which have shaken the 24-million-people country since late January.
The president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days and this would be followed by presidential election within two months. In exchange, Mr. Saleh and his top aides would be granted immunity from prosecution.
International alarm has mounted over instability in Yemen, home to an ambitious wing of Al Qaeda, whose leader has sworn vengeance for the killing by US Special Forces of their chief Osama Bin Laden on May 2.
France, which called for the agreement to be signed without delay, deplored “the excessive use of force against demonstrators” and urged Yemeni authorities to protect them.
Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer of Germany said that repression was not the answer to the political vacuum and the country’s deepening problems, adding that those responsible had to be held to account.
“President Saleh is requested, with regard to the mediation offer by the Gulf Cooperation Council, to contribute to an orderly political transition without delay,” he said in a statement. “I welcome the fact that the European Union has put its support clearly behind this offer.”
At least 180 people have been killed in clashes during protests against Mr. Saleh’s regime that erupted in late January, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.
(Abeer Tayel, an editor at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ammar Ben Aziz, a senior journalist, at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: email@example.com)