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GCC leaders urge immediate Yemen power transfer

More than 130 people have died in ongoing political violence this week, with President Saleh being called on to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

RIYADH // Gulf monarchies urged Yemen's president to "immediately" sign a power transfer plan ending his country's political turmoil in which 130 people have been killed in a week, Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Saturday.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states "affirm their commitment to help their brothers in Yemen to reach an agreement for the immediate implementation of the Gulf Initiative," they announced at a meeting in New York Friday on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

The six GCC states want to see President Ali Abdullah Saleh "immediately sign the initiative and ensure a peaceful transition of power... to meet his people's aspirations for change and reform," SPA said.

Yemen's wealthy Gulf neighbours have been trying for months to persuade Saleh to accept a plan under which he would transfer power in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Their statement came following a report on Yemen presented by GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani to foreign ministers and international diplomats in New York.

Zayani's latest mediation mission foundered amid fighting in Sanaa, and he flew out on Wednesday empty-handed.

GCC ministers "condemned... the use of weapons, especially heavy weapons against unarmed protesters," said the statement.

They called for "self-restraint, a complete and immediate ceasefire, and for forming a commission of inquiry in the latest events that have cost the lives of innocent Yemenis."

Violence raging in Sanaa over the past week gained momentum with Saleh's surprise return Friday after he had spent three months recovering in Riyadh from bomb blast wounds sustained in an attack on his palace compound in June.

The protest organising committee declared 40 people killed on Saturday alone, raising the total death toll to 173 killed in one week as battles continued to rock Sanaa.

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