Yemeni president hands over power on condition that he receives immunity from prosecution.
YEMENI President Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday signed an agreement — negotiated by Persian Gulf states — to hand over power to his deputy as part of a proposal to end months of protests that have pushed the Arab country near to civil war.
Saudi state television broadcast live images of Mr Saleh signing the accord watched by Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud.
Yemeni opposition officials signed the accord after Mr Saleh.
Mr Saleh has backed out of similar agreements at the last minute on three previous occasions, fuelling turmoil that has bolstered al- Qaeda militants in his country, next door to Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer.
Activists who have camped in the centre of Sanaa, the capital, have demanded Mr Saleh end his 33 years of rule now.
Government troops skirmished with gunmen loyal to a powerful opposition tribal leader in the capital and some clashes were reported in the southern city of Taiz.
“The president … arrived this morning in Riyadh on a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following an invitation from the Saudi leadership, to attend the signing of the Gulf initiative and its operational mechanism,” the state news agency Saba reported earlier.
United Nations (UN) envoy Jamal Benomar, with support from US and European diplomats, managed to devise a compromise about implementing the power transfer deal devised by the six-member Gulf Co- operation Council (GCC). Under the GCC plan, Mr Saleh would shift all his powers to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who would form a new government with the opposition and call an early presidential election within three months.
Months of protests have rekindled conflicts with Yemen’s Islamist militants and separatists, threatening anarchy in a country Washington regards as a front line against the al- Qaeda militant Islamic network. The unrest has also raised fear of civil war on the borders of Saudi Arabia, a strategic ally of the US. The fears are shared by Mr Saleh’s erstwhile US allies, who had backed him in their fight against al-Qaeda.
Mr Saleh is the fourth leader to succumb to the popular unrest that spread through the Arab world this year, following those toppled in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
His crackdown on protesters left almost 900 people dead even as he tried to end the demonstrations with promises of political change.
He would travel to New York for medical treatment, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday. “He told me that he will come to New York to take medical treatment immediately after signing this agreement,” he said.
Mr Saleh had previously received treatment in Saudi Arabia. He was injured during an attack on his palace compound.
Mr Benomar said a national dialogue would be held during a two- year transitional period culminating in a constitutional review. “(The agreement) will mark an important step for the people of Yemen in resolving the political crisis and moving their country forward towards a better future.” Mr Benomar is due to report back to the UN Security Council next Monday on his mission to Yemen.