Yemen deal changed to meet Saleh demands - opposition

Fri May 6, 2011 9:26pm GMT

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - A Gulf plan to ease Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power has been modified to allow him not sign it as president, the opposition said on Friday, a condition that nearly derailed the deal last week.

Saleh, who first indicated he would sign the deal devised by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), refused to put his name to it last week, saying he should do so as party leader, not president.

The plan requires the Yemeni leader, until recently backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States as a bulwark against al Qaeda and regional instability, to resign 30 days after signing.

Critics saw the move as a clear sign Saleh, a shrewd political survivor, had no intention of stepping down quickly.

Sceptical opposition leaders said on Friday it appeared the GCC had acceded to demands by the ruling party.

"This evening we received a new agreement plan and were surprised to see it had been amended according to President Saleh's demand," said an opposition leader who asked not to be identified.

"They changed the title of the deal from 'Accord between the opposition and the government' to 'Accord between the General People's Congress (ruling party) and its allies and the Joint Meeting Parties bloc (opposition coalition)'," he told Reuters.

Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Yemen's neighbour, are eager to see peace return to Yemen, a poor state struggling to deal with internal rebellion and home to al Qaeda's active Arabian Peninsula branch.   Continued...

<p>Anti-government protesters attend weekly Friday prayers during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southwestern city of Ibb May 6, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer</p>
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