Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yemeni Opposition Says GCC-Backed Political Plan Is ‘Dead’

By Mohammed Hatem

Sana'a, May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s Joint Meetings Party, a coalition of six opposition groups, says a plan to end the country’s political crisis is dead following a visit by the chief envoy of Arab Gulf states seeking to broker a deal.

While the coalition is willing to meet Abdel Latif al- Zayyani, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, again to explore new options, the current proposal was considered “dead,” Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the opposition, said in a telephone interview today.

Thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Sana’a, the capital, today calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Several people marched through the streets carrying a makeshift coffin with the words “GCC Initiative” written on the side.

Protests have persisted since the government and the Joint Meetings Parties failed to sign a GCC-brokered plan last month. Under the terms of the plan, Saleh would have ceded power within a month of signing the deal and would be granted immunity from prosecution. Al-Zayyani visited Sana’a yesterday to revive the group’s stalled peace initiative, the official Saba news service said.

Protests in Yemen calling for an end to Saleh’s rule are in their third month. At least 100 people have died as security forces have repeatedly fired on demonstrations that began on Feb. 11, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights in Sana’a.

Saleh U-Turn

In March, Saleh, 69, agreed to an opposition proposal to hand over power by the end of the year, then backtracked by saying he’d stand down only after a newly elected government was formed and power was transferred to safer hands. The agreement was brokered by ministers from the GCC, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

“There’s still hope that the crisis will be resolved,” Osama al-Nuggali, director of the information department at the Saudi Foreign Ministry, said in a telephone interview from Riyadh today. “A diplomatic solution, no matter how long it takes, will be less costly on Yemeni lives and on their security and stability. The alternative is scary.”

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