Gulf mediator to meet Yemen's Saleh as violence rages

AFP , Sunday 15 May 2011

GCC chief was to meet President Ali Abdullah Saleh Sunday in a new bid to resolve Yemen's political crisis, as medics reported another protester killed and scores wounded

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh attends a rally held by pro-government supporters in Sanaa May 13, (Reuters).

Abdullatif al-Zayani,  the Gulf Cooperation Council chief, flew in to Sanaa on Saturday in a new attempt to convince Yemen's political rivals to sign a Gulf-brokered plan that would see Saleh out of office within 30 days, sources close to both parties said.

Zayani was to meet Saleh and members of his ruling General People's Congress in the hope of achieving progress in the mediation efforts that stalled after the veteran leader refused to sign in his capacity as president.

During Zayani's last visit to the impoverished country in April, Saleh had said he would resign only as party leader, contrary to the demands of the opposition.

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

The opposition will not meet with Zayani "unless president Saleh agrees to sign the plan as it was proposed in April," said a member of the opposition Sunday.

The Gulf plan, which lost Qatar's support on Thursday, 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.

Parliamentary opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan has said the GCC initiative was "dead" following the pullout of Qatar, whose prime minister angered Sanaa by stating the Yemeni president must go.

Tension was also simmering on ground as police, armed civilians, and Republican Guards, led by Saleh's son Ahmed, opened fire on demonstrators late Saturday in Taez, south of Sanaa, killing one and wounding 34 others by live rounds, medics and witnesses said.

"Three of the wounded are clinically dead," a medical official told AFP.

Masked armed men patrolled neighbourhoods in Taez, Yemen's second-largest city, as they fired in the air causing panic among residents late at night, witnesses told AFP.

At least 180 people have been killed in three months of protests against Saleh's regime, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.

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