Yemen protesters reject president's exit plan

AFP , Sunday 24 Apr 2011

Protesters continue to call for the ouster of the regime, despite Saleh's adoption of an exit plan

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen
Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside Sanaa University 11 April 2011. (Reuters)

Defiant protesters camped out in Yemen's capital and second city of Taez on Sunday demanded President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down immediately, even after his ruling party accepted a 30-day exit plan.

"There is a consensus on rejecting the initiative [proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council]," said Abdulmalik Al-Yusufi, a leading activist at a sit-in demonstration in Sanaa's University Square.

Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) said late Saturday it has accepted the GCC proposal in its entirety, a decision promptly welcomed by Washington which urged all sides to "swiftly" implement a peaceful transfer of power.

The Gulf plan would see Saleh submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, after forming a national unity government and handing power to his deputy.
A presidential vote would be held within two months.

The Common Forum parliamentary opposition coalition also accepted the proposal, but said it would not take part in a government formed under Saleh, indicating he should hand over power before the cabinet is sworn in.

But protesters who have been in the streets since late January, demanding the departure of Saleh and his regime, were not as receptive as the opposition.

Yusufi said demonstrators camping out at University Square, which they have dubbed Change Square, staged a protest after midnight Saturday signalling their rejection of the plan. "Down with the regime" and "Down with all parties," they chanted.

"The Gulf initiative addresses the problem as if it was a political crisis between two parties ... We have taken to the streets in a revolution that is demanding a comprehensive change," Yusufi said.

He charged that Saleh, who has been in office since 1978, was a "liar and deceitful."

Ahmed Al-Wafi, another leading activist in Taez, Yemen's second largest city and host to ongoing mass protests, also dismissed the latest statement by the GPC as an attempt to "buy time."

"The youth will only accept an immediate departure of Saleh. They are not concerned by any negotiations," he said, insisting that the parliamentary opposition will have to "follow the street stance".

"We are staying in the squares and we have plans to escalate our protest peacefully," he added.

He also pointed out that although people in Yemen are heavily armed, protesters have shown "great patience by facing the thugs of the regime peacefully".

More than 130 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and president loyalists since protests broke out late January.

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