Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to sign a plan to transfer power to his deputy and end the crisis that has gripped the country since January, a senior opposition figure said on Monday.
“The negotiations that have been under way for the past three days have led to an agreement by which the Gulf initiative and mechanisms for implementing it will be signed on Tuesday,” Mohammed Bassandawa, who heads the National Council of revolutionary forces, told AFP.
The plan submitted by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) calls on Saleh to hand power to his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, thus ending his 33-year rule in return for immunity from prosecution.
Saleh has so far refused to sign the agreement, despite violence which has seen hundreds of people killed and thousands wounded since an uprising against his regime erupted in January.
Bassandawa refused to give more details on the negotiations which he said finally persuaded Saleh to sign the GCC deal which the wealthy neighbours of impoverished Yemen first proposed in April.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Yemeni authorities, however, and a UN envoy in Sanaa to help clinch an agreement was also unavailable.
A GCC official told AFP in Riyadh that the six-nation group’s chief, Abdullatif al-Zayani, could travel to Sanaa if Yemen’s political rivals were ready to seal the deal.
“The secretary general will go to Sanaa in the next two days if the Yemeni parties are ready to sign the Gulf initiative,” the official said.
Several opposition sources insisted the plan would be signed on Tuesday in Sanaa, and said Zayani would probably attend.
An opposition official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an agreement was reached “concerning the mechanisms for the implementation” of the GCC plan “and an agreement was reached.”
In line with this accord, “President Saleh will sign on Tuesday in Sanaa the Gulf initiative,” said the opposition official.
“Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, leaders of the (ruling) General People’s Congress and of the opposition will also sign the mechanism for implementing the agreement on Tuesday,” the opposition leader said.
But he also sounded a note of caution, saying: “This in an agreement in principle.”
Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, has repeatedly thwarted efforts by the GCC and the United Nations, to ensure the pact is signed.
On May 1 the GCC called off a signing ceremony because Saleh refused at the last minute to sign the document. A second ceremony on May 22 was also scrapped for the same reason.
The GCC plan proposes the formation in Sanaa of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to Hadi and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation since late January.
Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.
The latest developments come as a UN Security Council meeting on Yemen which was due to take place on Monday was postponed at the request of the political rivals in Sanaa.
“The Security Council meeting was postponed to November 28 at the request of the protagonists” of the Yemen crisis, Jamal Benomar, the UN’s envoy to Yemen, said on Sunday.
Benomar has been in Sanaa since last week for talks aimed at ending 10 months of political deadlock and bloodshed.
The 15-member Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2014 on October 21 condemning the Sanaa government’s crackdown on the mass anti-regime protest movement that has swept the country.
It also called on Saleh to sign the initiative submitted by the GCC which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The political turmoil in Yemen has seen powerful tribes and army dissidents join opposition parliamentarians and youth protesters in their struggle to oust Saleh.
The unrest has left Yemen’s already impoverished economy on the brink of collapse.