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Gulf plan offers Yemen’s Saleh 30 days to quit

A Gulf plan to end months of bloody unrest calls for Yemen’s embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down 30 days after the formation of a unity government, an official in his administration said on Thursday.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) proposal urges “the formation of a national unity government with 50% held by the ruling party, 40% by the opposition and 10% by other parties,” the official said.

“The president would transfer his powers to his deputy, and then the protests would end,” as would the defection of military leaders and soldiers, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

And “the president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days,” with a presidential vote to be held within two months.

Saleh has since January faced anti-regime protests calling for his ouster in which more than 130 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and rival demonstrators.

Foreign ministers of Yemen’s oil-rich GCC neighbours held talks on Tuesday with envoys of Saleh’s regime as part of efforts to hammer out a deal under which the veteran president, who has been in power since 1978, would step down.

The meeting came two days after talks in Riyadh between the foreign ministers and representatives of Yemen’s parliamentary opposition, who are adamant Saleh should go without delay.

Hassan Zayd, secretary general of opposition Shiite Islamist group Haq, earlier outlined a similar plan but did not refer to the formation of a national unity government or the plan drawn up by Gulf mediators.

Zayd, citing negotiations to resolve the crisis, said the plan called for “the resignation of President Saleh and the enactment of an amnesty law” that would rule out prosecution after he leaves power.

“This offer awaits the president’s approval,” said Zayd, a member of the opposition delegation which travelled to Riyadh on Sunday, saying the United States, a close ally of Saleh, had contributed to the plan.

If he accepts, Saleh would hand power to his vice president within 30 days and resign, with a presidential election to be held in two months, Zayd said.

But a defiant Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years, said on Wednesday he would “resist” calls to resign and abide by the constitution in any transfer of power, the official Saba news agency reported.

“We will continue to resist … undaunted and committed to constitutional legitimacy, while rejecting the plots and coups,” he was quoted as saying.

Saleh, addressing a women’s group in Sana’a, reiterated he would relinquish power only through elections.

“Let those who want to attain power rely on the ballot box. Change can only come about through elections and within the framework of constitutional legitimacy,” said Saleh, whose latest seven-year term ends in September 2013. — AFP

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