SANAA // Yemen's main opposition coalition yesterday formed a national council aimed at taking power from the embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from injuries he received in an attack on his compound in June.
In a meeting attended by about 1,000 people representing political, military, youth and tribal groups, a National Council for the Forces of the Peaceful Revolution was formed. The 143-member council will choose 20 members to make up an executive committee.
"Our concern about the country has pushed us to establish the council. It is meant to secure the country in case the regime starts a war or tries to generate chaos and (creates a) vacuum," said Mohammed Saleh Basindwah, chairman of the Join Meeting Party (JMP) Preparatory Committee of the National Dialogue. The JMP is an umbrella group of opposition parties.
Mr Basindwah, a former foreign minister, said in a speech at Sanaa University, where the groups met amid tight security, that there is no option but to escalate protest activities against "the rest of the family regime, and overthrow them" and "coordinate all efforts among all revolution forces".
Protests that began early this year in Sanaa and other cities calling for Mr Saleh to step down have frequently turned violent. Three times Mr Saleh has backed out of Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered deal in which he would cede power within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Ahmed Al Sufi, an aide to Mr Saleh, said the establishment of the national council represents "a declaration of war on all state institutions and these institutions will be forced to fight this war".
"We do not accept that there are two sources for legitimacy and we are not ready to talks with this body which is unconstitutional and is a coup against the state," Mr Al Sufi told The National yesterday.
On Tuesday, Mr Saleh vowed to return home "soon" from Saudi Arabia and lashed out at his opponents. He accused the JMP of having "narrow interests" and "stealing" the slogans of young protesters.
"The crisis was provoked by political forces whose aim is to take power," said Mr Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 33 years.
Sheikh Sadeq Al Ahmar, a leader of Yemen's most influential tribal confederation, supports the new council, but told the gathering at the university that "we need an action and not talk."
Ahmed Al Zurkah, an independent analyst in Sanaa, said forming the council is an attempt to embarrass the international community that has been unable to convince Mr Saleh to step down.
"The opposition wants to show they have other cards to play if Saleh continues to refuse to leave power ... The idea of establishing the council is revolutionary but if the opposition continues to use it as a political pressure instrument, the result will be fruitless and might generate more frustration among angry protesters at the protests camps" said Mr Al Zurkah.
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse