Yemen’s Saleh in Riyadh to Sign Gulf-Backed Power Transfer Deal

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in Riyadh for the signing of a Gulf-sponsored plan to hand over power to a deputy and allow the formation of a national unity government that would try to end the country's 10-month-long political crisis.

Mr. Saleh arrived in the Saudi capital, Wednesday. Yemeni state media said he will attend the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council power-transfer plan and its “implementation mechanism.” The Yemeni president has promised to sign power-transfer plans several times this year, but on each occasion backed away at the last minute.

U.N. envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, said Tuesday government and opposition negotiators had reached agreement on the GCC initiative, which calls for Mr. Saleh to hand power to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi within 30 days. Hadi would then form a national unity government to lead the country until early elections next year. U.N. envoy Omar was in Sana'a to help mediate the agreement.

Yemeni opposition activists have been staging near-daily mass protests since January to demand an immediate end to Mr. Saleh's 33-year autocratic rule. A government crackdown on the protests and fighting between government troops and opposition militiamen has killed hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.

Al-Qaida-linked militants seized control of several parts of southern Yemen this year as the government struggled to contain opposition unrest in other regions.

Yemeni military officials said soldiers backed by pro-government tribesmen killed at least 14 suspected al-Qaida militants in fighting late Monday and Tuesday in the southern province of Abyan.

Also Tuesday, security officials said unidentified gunmen kidnapped a French woman and two Yemeni Red Cross workers who were traveling in Yemen's restive south. The officials said the kidnappers demanded the release of prisoners held by Yemeni authorities.