Deadlock in Yemen over Gulf Cooperation Council peace plan

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh welcomes a proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council to end the country's political crisis, but his opponents again reject it.

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SANA'A // Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday welcomed a proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council to transfer power and end Yemen's political crisis, but his opponents again rejected the plan and demanded the president's immediate resignation.

The proposal, put forth by the GCC on Sunday, urged Mr Saleh to cede power to his deputy and called for the creation of an opposition-led national unity government, Abdel Latif al Zayyani, secretary general of the GCC, told reporters in Riyadh.

The GCC did not specify a time frame for a transfer of power and included immunity for Mr Saleh and his family from prosecution for alleged crimes during his 32-year leadership.

"The presidency welcomes the efforts of our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council to solve the current crisis in Yemen," read a statement released yesterday by the president's office.

The statement continued: "He [Saleh] has no reservations about transferring power peacefully within the framework of the constitution." In recent days Mr Saleh has indicated he would transfer power only when his term ends in 2013, a condition that has already been rejected by the protesters.

Protest leaders said yesterday the GCC plan does not "meet our demands for the quick departure of Saleh and his family or a trial of the killers of protesters".

The opposition said if Mr Saleh wants dialogue he should conduct it with the "martyrs of the revolution".

"We completely reject the GCC proposal as it is a lifejacket for Saleh and does not show any support to the Yemeni people," said Tawkul Karman, a protest leader and organiser of the initial anti-Saleh protests.

"The regime of Saleh has lost its legitimacy, it should not transfer its power. We want to try this regime and restore the money it looted. We are going to do this regardless of the sacrifices," Ms Karman said.

Another protest leader said anti-government supporters are prepared to stay in the streets until their goals are achieved.

"Our demands are clear: the immediate departure of the president and his relatives and their prosecution. If this is out of question, we are ready to stay here at the protest sites for months," protest leader Mohammed Saeed said.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis staged protests in 13 provinces yesterday, calling for the end of Mr Saleh's presidency and the prosecution of those responsible for the killings of more than 125 protesters since the turmoil began in Yemen on February 11.

In Taiz yesterday, thousands of protesters marched for several kilometres through the streets to Freedom Square where tens of thousands have been camped out for more than two months demanding the resignation of Mr Saleh.

In the capital Sana'a, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets yesterday morning and afternoon. Thousands of school students chanted: "No school until the president falls".

The Joint Meeting Parties, an six-party opposition coalition, also said they would not accept any proposal for Yemen unless it clearly stated the immediate departure of Mr Saleh.

"This new GCC plan is different from the one which was put forth last week and we accepted," said Mr Hasan Zaid, a JMP leader.

"Accepting this plan as it is will be a betrayal to the blood of the martyrs who were killed during protests," Mr Zaid said.