GCC's deal to end Yemen troubles has failed after three days of discussions

GCC secretary-general Abdul Latif al Zayani's fifth visit could be his last if President Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to co-operate.

Protests continued in Taiz yesterday as GCC powerbrokers again failed to get President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a deal.
Powered by automated translation

SANA'A // An attempt by the Gulf Co-operation Council at mediating a deal to resolve Yemen's political crisis has reached a dead end, a senior official said yesterday.

After three days of talks in Sana'a, Abdul Latif al Zayani, the GCC general secretary has not succeeded in convincing the Yemeni government and opposition to sign the GCC proposal and the Yemen crisis could take longer than expected to solve, the official said.

"Zayani is extremely disappointed with the negotiation tactics of Yemen's ruling party and opposition," said the official. "Both sides are not expected to sign for at least one month or two, and this keeps the Yemen fate unknown and dangerous."

A new GCC proposal is expected to be brought up very soon, they added, without providing details, but President Ali Abdullah Saleh is not yet convinced to leave office. "Saleh can't imagine himself living in Yemen and not being president of the country, he said.

The Qatari Shark Awsat newspaper quoted a senior GCC official as saying Mr Zayani's visit - his fifth - will be his final one if Mr Saleh continues to snub the proposal for him to resign.

Leaders of the main opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) said that the GCC is losing confidence that a solution can be reached.

"They are trying very hard, but the dirty game of Yemeni politics is making them consider stepping aside," said Ahmed Bahri, head of the political arm of the opposition Haq party.

Mohammed Abulahoum, a former senior figure in the Saleh administration and now president of the opposition Justice and Building Bloc, met with Mr Zayani several times this week. Despite the lack of progress in the talks, he said the GCC will continue to pressure both sides to help prevent the country from sliding into a civil war.

"Zayani has been very sincere in dealing with the Yemen crisis," said Mr Abulahoum. "He wants to help the people of Yemen, but Yemenis must want to help themselves first."

The JMP opposition has refused to meet with the GCC general secretary until Mr Saleh signs the proposal. But, later yesterday, in one of Mr Zayani's unofficial meetings with the opposition officials, they expressed disappointment at the weak Gulf stance in exerting pressure on Mr Saleh to accept the deal. "Every time Saleh is not happy, the GCC change a little in the proposal. We know Saleh and his tricks and the GCC nations are only starting to understand him," said Mohammed Basendowah, the president of the opposition preparatory dialogue committee. "We will not be involved in the GCC proposal for now, and it's Zayani's job to convince Saleh to sign, not ours."

The GCC's transition plan was initially accepted by both the government and opposition. Under the deal, Mr Saleh would resign and hand power to his vice president within 30 days of signing. The deal offered Mr Saleh and his inner circle, including relatives who run branches of the security and military forces, immunity from prosecution.

The proposal began to unravel, however, when the president said he would only sign as a head of the party rather than as head of state. Last week, GCC member Qatar withdrew its support of the plan, blaming Mr Saleh for the impasse.

Dr Khaled Akwa, deputy minister of local administration in Mr Saleh's government, said there is a lack of trust in the president and concern that he is trying to buy more time to reorganise his political cards.

"Saleh's words are not credible and of no value. Even if he signs, everyone expects him to find an excuse to change his stance," he said. "He is preparing his family and close aides for the post-Saleh political era."

The youth movement largely credited for leading the anti-government protests for the past three months have called on the GCC nations to withdraw their proposal. "We will not give Saleh immunity. Qatar pulled out of the proposal, Kuwait is next, and soon the GCC proposal will have no power to it," said Salah Sundus, a youth leader in Sana'a. "We will decide the fate of Saleh, not the GCC."

In addition, Abdul Kareem Eryani, Mr Saleh's political adviser, told Mr Zayani that the problems in the south of Yemen with separatists and in the north with the Houthi rebels must also be given priority in the GCC proposal.