By Jamal al-Jaberi (AFP)
SANAA, May 19, 201 — Yemen's opposition blamed President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday for the failure of a Gulf plan aimed at ending a bloody political dispute, saying he would do "everything" to remain in power.
Saleh "foiled the initiative by refusing to sign it" on Wednesday, Yassin Saeed Noman, head of the opposition Common Forum, told AFP.
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al-Zayani, flew out of Sanaa on Wednesday after sources close to the negotiations between the regime and opposition said the two sides again failed to ink the power transfer accord.
Saleh, in power since 1978, "has refused the peaceful choice and is ready to do everything to remain in power," said Noman.
"With this, the regime will have to face the people who will continue with their peaceful revolt and will continue to escalate, even if the regime uses violence against them," he said.
Conditions Saleh has set that he says will enable him to sign in his capacity as president, cannot be met, said another member of the Common Forum who requested anonymity.
According to the Gulf-brokered proposal, Saleh would quit office within 30 days, in return for immunity from prosecution, before a government of national unity is formed and elections for a new president held after two months.
Washington issued a fresh plea Wednesday for the deal to be inked.
US President Barack Obama's aide John Brennan called Saleh to urge him to sign and implement the agreement "so that Yemen is able to move forward immediately with its political transition," a White House statement said.
However, Saleh has called onto his loyalists to stage a rally in his support on Friday, as every week, in a move described by his opponents as a sign that the veteran ruler is still clinging to power.
Journalists were also invited to attend a military parade that will take place in Sanaa on Sunday to mark the 21st anniversary of the unity between the country's north and its formerly independent south.
South Yemen was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal from Aden until the region united with the north in 1990. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.
As the protests, which began in January raged, rifts surfaced within Yemen's army. Pro-opposition troops led by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar control the capital's northern and western regions, while troops loyal to Saleh control the rest of Sanaa.
Anti-regime protesters staged a massive rally in Taez, Yemen's second-largest city Thursday, carrying banners accusing Saleh and his ruling party of "manoeuvering".
In Sanaa, protesters at the University Square, dubbed "Change Square" after it became the epicentre of demonstrations in February, carried banners reading "no initiative, no dialogue, departure is the final decision".
"The initiative does not concern us," prominent activist Tawakul Karman told AFP. "We insist on completing our revolution to the end... (until) we overthrow Saleh."
"We will continue to protest despite our awareness that we could be killed or arrested. We are not afraid," said Karman.
But the protesters have expanded the field hospital they set up at the square and urged more doctors to volunteer, according to an AFP reporter.
The impoverished but strategic Arabian Peninsula country has been gripped by protests since late January calling for Saleh's ouster.
Security forces have mounted a deadly crackdown on the protests, leaving at least 180 people dead, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.