By Donna Abu-Nasr -
Yemen is in danger of collapse if a Gulf-brokered agreement that calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down within a month is not signed soon, said Abdul-Karim al-Eryani, Saleh’s political adviser.
Yemen’s ruling and opposition parties were expected to sign the accord in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on May 1. The ceremony was canceled after Saleh said he would sign the accord as chairman of the ruling General People’s Congress and not in his capacity as president, according to the opposition.
“This is a technical issue,” al-Eryani said in a telephone interview from Madrid. “The world should not crucify Yemen on a cross of signatures.” He said he is still optimistic that the dispute will be resolved and “the signing will take place.”
The accord, brokered by members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, aims to end weeks of anti-government protests that began on Feb. 11, in which at least 100 people have died, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights.
GCC officials are seeking to avert an escalation of the violence in Yemen or a deadly military divide like the one in Libya. Rising social unrest also threatens to strengthen al- Qaeda as it seeks to use Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, as a base from which to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil.
“Yemen cannot endure more weeks of protests,” said al- Eryani. “It should end soon or else the country’s economy and security will crash.”
Yemen’s opposition Joint Meeting Parties, which represents six opposition groups, wants Saleh to sign as head of state as stipulated in the agreement. Its members worry that Saleh may not abide by the terms of the accord if he signs only as chairman of the party.
“It’s a question of willingness,” Mohammed al-Mutawakkil, a member of the Joint Meeting Parties’ higher council, said in a telephone interview from Sana’a today. “Does he or doesn’t he want to sign? It’s all up to him.”