Yemen accepts GCC plan for Saleh to depart

Yemen’s long-time president, Ali Abdullah Salah, agrees to a GCC proposal that he step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity to prosecution.

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SANA'A // Yemen’s long-time president, Ali Abdullah Salah, agreed yesterday to a GCC proposal that he step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity to prosecution.

The announcement late last night signals a major about-face for the autocratic leader who has ruled for 32 years, and a major victory for the opposition movement that has suffered at least 120 deaths since anti-government demonstrations began in January.

Officials from the protest movement said yesterday that they also accepted the latest draft of the deal, but with reservations.

Yemeni state television reported yesterday that the government’s acceptance of the GCC plan had been delivered by the foreign minister, Abubakr al Qirbi, to the GCC secretary general, Abdulatif al Zayani.

The GCC plan calls for Mr Saleh to hand power to his vice president one month after signing the proposal. He would appoint an opposition leader to lead an interim cabinet charged with preparing presidential elections two months later.

The plan, presented on Thursday, also gives immunity from prosecution to Mr Saleh, his family and aides while his opponents would agree to end protests. The plan has been welcomed by the main opposition coalition, the six-party Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), according to JMP spokesman Mohammed Kahtan.

“We feel there is no minimum trust between us and the president and so we cannot take part in a government under his leadership,” said Mr Khatan.

“We will take part in the interim government after Saleh resigns 30 days after the signing of the GCC plan and under the new temporary president,” he added.

Youth organisations and anti-government hardliners at the protest squares, however, had earlier said they would not welcome any mediation plans that did not mandate the immediate departure of Mr Saleh.

Speaking to an audience of military students in Sana’a yesterday, Mr Saleh blasted his rivals for attempting to drag the country into civil war.

“Security, safety and stability are in Yemen’s interests and the interests of the region. Any negative consequences will affect the security of the region,” he said.

Mr Saleh criticised the government and military officers who defected from his regime to join the protests, accusing them of being cowards. His statement comes after reports that dozens of security officers and soldiers were arrested on Friday after they joined the anti-Saleh protests.

Meanwhile, protests continued yesterday in Taiz where thousands marched in the streets. In Aden, about 90 per cent of businesses and government institutions, including schools and universities, were closed in response to calls for a general strike and acts of civil disobedience, according to local sources. The general strike was also in place in the cities of Lahj, Taiz and Ibb.