Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GCC plan seems less welcome amid lukewarm Yemeni acceptance

By Fuad Rajeh, Wang Qiuyun

SANAA, April 26 (Xinhua) -- The proposal raised by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to tackle the Yemeni crisis seems less successful amid lukewarm acceptance of the Yemeni government and the opposition, and observers doubt that the unrest will continue to affect the country and its economy.

Several anti-government protesters were killed on Monday and hundreds of others injured as the unrest continued in major Yemeni cities, mainly by young people who rejected the GCC proposal and vowed to escalate their protests.

Yemeni Trade and Industry Minister Hisham Sharaf said on Monday that the unrest has directly hit Yemeni tourism, foreign trade and investment, as well as exports, mainly oil exports. It has cost the country almost 5 billion U.S. dollars.

Hisham hoped that the political rivals will sit at the table to address the crisis in an effort to help the national economy.

"We appreciate any effort conducive to Yemen's stability, but if we go into details, we find out that our main and firm demands were not met through the proposal. Also, we saw the West-backed effort focusing on the government and the opposition," said Hosam al Sharjabi, a spokesman for the youth protesting outside Sanaa University.

"The international community should not deal with Yemen out of their own interests; we will not accept any initiative except the one calling for an immediate ouster of Saleh and opening trials for the officials responsible for corruption and killing the anti-government protesters," he said.

President Saleh has said that he accepted the Gulf deal and was ready to quit, but later he emerged to say that the power transfer should be realized through ballot boxes.

Saleh also repeatedly told media that any initiative for power transfer in Yemen should guarantee respect for the Yemeni constitution, and analysts doubted that he may sign an agreement but violate it later.

"The proposal remains welcome, while the situation requires respecting the constitutional legitimacy and the public choice, and a peaceful and democratic power succession through the ballot boxes," said Deputy Information Minister Abdul Janadi.

He added, "Even if President Saleh accepts resignation, the people will reject that and insist on his stay in power."

"The Yemeni people are demanding the president stay in office because they had voted for him. They also urged him not to accept any mediation or initiative because the opposition is inciting chaos and wants to reach power by illegal ways," said al Janadi.

The GCC effort appeared to be successful but what President Saleh and opposition officials said proved the opposite, observers said.

Saleh used to be changeable, and concerns really remained that he may do something different or unconventional at the end, said Abdullah al Faqih, a professor of politics at Sanaa University.

"The political rivals have been discussing some options and offers including the Gulf power transfer proposal, but I think this will never end the boiling of Yemen," he added.

Observers said on Monday that the GCC proposal could not survive as the protests continued in Yemen.

"The initiative by the GCC member states was too late and it would have been successful if it had come before the people took to the streets," said Nabil al Bukairy, a researcher.

"With the Gulf effort being focused on a crisis, it also did the government a favor as now the people looked at the opposition as a negative component because it agreed to accept the GCC plan," he said.

Muhammad Qahtan, a spokesman for the opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), announced on Monday that it has fully accepted the recent GCC plan, but said later that JMP officially accepted the plan but still had objections on some terms, specifically the one calling for forming a national unity government and being sworn in in front of Saleh.

Last week, the GCC continued to push their effort over the situation in Yemen, sending a delegation led by GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif al Zayani to hold talks with government and opposition officials.

Under the final Gulf proposal, Saleh has to resign in a month and transfer power to his deputy within a week after the process starts. A national unity government will be formed by members of the current government, the opposition and other political forces.

The proposal also said the parliament will meet in 29 days to grant immunity to Saleh and his family members; and on the 30th day, Saleh will officially announce his resignation in parliament.

Qahtan said last Friday that the opposition accepted the GCC plan, but the newly-elected leaders of the youth-led street protesters refused to grant immunity to Saleh or his family members after hundreds of their followers were allegedly killed by Saleh's forces.

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