x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Yemen opposition blames Saleh for Gulf plan failure

President Ali Abdullah Saleh 'has refused the peaceful choice and is ready to do everything to remain in power,' opposition says.

SANA'A // Yemen's opposition blamed President Ali Abdullah Saleh today for the failure of the GCC plan aimed at ending a bloody political dispute, saying he would do "everything" to remain in power.

Mr Saleh "foiled the initiative by refusing to sign it" yesterday, the head of the opposition Common Forum, Yassin Saeed Noman, told AFP.

The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al Zayani, flew out of Sana'a yesterday after sources close to the negotiations between the regime and opposition said the two sides again failed to ink the power transfer accord.

Mr Saleh, in power since 1978, "has refused the peaceful choice and is ready to do everything to remain in power," Mr Noman said.

"With this, the regime will have to face the people who will continue with their peaceful revolt and will continue to escalate, even if the regime uses violence against them," he said.

The conditions Mr Saleh has set that he says will enable him to sign in his capacity as president, cannot be met, said another member of the Common Forum who requested anonymity.

According to the GCC-brokered proposal, Mr Saleh would quit office within 30 days, in return for immunity from prosecution, before a government of national unity is formed and elections for a new president held after two months.

Washington issued a fresh plea yesterday for the deal to be signed.

The aide to US President Barack Obama, John Brennan, called Mr Saleh to urge him to sign and implement the agreement "so that Yemen is able to move forward immediately with its political transition," a White House statement said.

However, Mr Saleh has called onto his loyalists to stage a rally in his support tomorrow, as every week, in a move described by his opponents as a sign that the veteran ruler is still clinging to power.

Journalists were also invited to attend a military parade that will take place in Sana'a on Sunday to mark the 21st anniversary of the unity between the country's north and its formerly independent south.

South Yemen was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal from Aden until the region united with the north in 1990. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

As the protests, which began in January raged, rifts surfaced within Yemen's army. Pro-opposition troops led by the dissident General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar control the capital's northern and western regions, while troops loyal to Mr Saleh control the rest of Sana'a.

Anti-regime protesters staged a massive rally in Taez, Yemen's second-largest city Thursday, carrying banners accusing Mr Saleh and his ruling party of "manoeuvering."

In Sana'a, protesters at the University Square, dubbed "Change Square"' after it became the epicentre of demonstrations in February, carried banners reading "no initiative, no dialogue, departure is the final decision".

A prominent activist, Tawakul Karman, told AFP: "The initiative does not concern us. We insist on completing our revolution to the end [until] we overthrow Saleh.

"We will continue to protest despite our awareness that we could be killed or arrested. We are not afraid," Mr Karman said.

The protesters have expanded the field hospital they set up at the square and urged more doctors to volunteer, according to an AFP reporter.

Yemen has been gripped by protests since late January calling for Mr Saleh's departure.

Security forces have mounted a deadly crackdown on the protests, leaving at least 180 people dead, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.