Yemen leader in Saudi for power-transfer deal

Ali Abdullah Saleh arrives in Riyadh to sign Gulf initiative to hand power to deputy, Yemen state TV reports

Saleh’s government has led a 10-month-long crackdown on protesters demanding that he step down [Reuters]

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen, has arrived in Saudi Arabia to sign a Gulf power-transfer initiative brokered by the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the country’s state television has reported.
“The president of the republic arrives safely to the airport of Riyadh to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following an invitation from the Saudi leadership, to attend the signing of the Gulf initiative,” the station announced on Wednesday.
The plan put forward last spring by the GCC countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, offers Saleh and his relatives immunity from prosecution if he hands over power to his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the vice president.
Saleh has repeatedly promised to sign the deal, only to change his mind at the last second.
The president’s visit to the Saudi capital came after the UN’s Yemen envoy said on Tuesday that a deal aimed at ending months of political deadlock had been approved both by the opposition and by the president.

“All the parties have agreed to implement the Gulf Co-operation Council initiative,” envoy Jamal Benomar told reporters in the capital Sanaa.

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However, Al Jazeera’s special correspondent in Sanaa said that the opposition has been fragmented and it remained unclear which groups supported the deal.

“In the last hours, there was speculation as to whether the armed groups, rather than political groups, would be in on the signing, quite literally.

“On top of that, you have the students who started the protests, and social activists that are still in Change Square, saying no matter the outcome of it, they will reject the signing because they weren’t involved.

“We also have rumours that people in the president’s own party have been pushing him not to sign it.”

Saleh’s continued refusal to sign the GCC initiative has triggered months of political deadlock that has left the government in a state of chaos and the economy in shambles.

The political crisis has also exacerbated tensions on the street, where tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have faced a brutal 10-month government crackdown that has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.

The plan submitted by the six-nation GCC would effectively bring an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.

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