Jamal al-Jabiri, AFP
Last updated: 17 May, 2011

Yemen rivals cling to positions as GCC plan stalls

The Yemeni regime and its opponents refused to budge on Tuesday as a Gulf mediator tried to keep up efforts to resolve the political crisis in the impoverished country.

“We have discussed with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General (Abdullatif) al-Zayani the mechanism to implement a plan to end the crisis,” ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) spokesman Tareq al-Shami told AFP.

“This plan needs a timeframe to implement it,” said Shami.

The six GCC states have proposed an exit plan that would see embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office within 30 days.

“In these circumstances, President Saleh according to the constitution has the right to serve his term until 2013,” and he might not resign before the opposition commits to the GCC plan which calls for an end to street protests.

But leading opposition figure Sultan al-Atwani slammed what he called “a new manoeuvre” by the regime. “The opposition is sticking to the agreement reached on April 21 and refuses to negotiate any new ideas,” he said.

Chief opposition negotiator Mohammed Salem Basandou “has expressed our position to Zayani when he met him in Sanaa in the presence of European and US diplomats on Sunday and Monday,” said Atwani.

Saleh has stalled by refusing to sign in his capacity as president, insisting on endorsing the agreement only as leader of the GPC, contrary to the demands of the opposition.

He says that under the constitution he should serve out his current term of office, which expires in 2013.

But Washington called on him last Thursday to sign the deal “now.”

The Gulf plan, which has lost Qatar’s support, proposes the formation of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to deadly protests which have shaken the 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, Saleh and his top aides would be granted immunity from prosecution.

“The regime is not serious, it continues to stoke crises. It’s up to the Gulf monarchies to” put an end to this, said Atwani.

Unless things change, “the uprising will be our alternative,” he warned. “We respect the will of our people” who want Saleh brought to justice “and we refuse anything that goes against their will.”

At least 180 people have been killed in clashes during protests against Saleh’s regime that erupted in late January, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.