Yemen’s opposition coalition on Monday accepted a proposal for a transfer of power, bringing the country closer to a resolution of months of political turmoil and countless demonstrations calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
“We have accepted the gulf proposal on condition that the protests are allowed to continue until Saleh leaves office,” said Mohammed Qahtan, a spokesman for the coalition, which is known as the JMP. “Leaders of the JMP met with the American ambassador today, and he confirmed for us that the protests can continue through this month; this is why we agreed to the proposal.”
However, when Saleh announced, on Saturday, his acceptance of the plan from a six-nation regional bloc known as the Gulf Cooperation Council, his agreement was based on the condition that the protest demonstrations would stop immediately.
The proposal, which was put together by the council in consultation with the United States and the EU, was presented to the Yemeni government and the opposition last week. It was seen as probably the last effort to solve the political crisis that had brought Yemen, an already fragile country, closer to chaos.
An economic crisis looms, and violence between armed gunmen and security forces in outlying provinces has increased over the last week. At least 120 protesters have been killed since the uprising began in February, according to Amnesty International.
If the two sides formally agree to the proposal, the president would leave office after 30 days and a presidential election would be held 60 days later, in accordance with Yemen’s Constitution.
The political opposition has also agreed to participate in a unity government with Saleh, which would govern during the 30 days before he leaves office. The opposition had initially objected to this provision.
The agreement, however, also signals a deepening rift between the political opposition and the street protesters who had already rejected the Gulf Cooperation Council’s proposal.
The protesters do not trust that Saleh will leave office as the mediated settlement required, and they do not think that he and his family should be granted immunity, which is called for in the agreement.
Witnesses said that the protest demonstration in Sanaa, the capital, had grown since the president announced that he had accepted the proposal, and protesters were angered by Saleh’s comments in an interview with the BBC that members of al-Qaida had infiltrated protest camps.