Yemen's Saleh signs power transfer deal, November 24, 2011

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Wednesday after backing out of doing so for at least three times.

Under the deal, the president would hand over power to his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and resign within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution.

A national consensus government will be formed consistent in 14 days, and Hadi will then issue a decree assigning the candidate chosen by the opposition to form a government, while an early presidential election will be held in 90 days.

Many ruling party officials claimed that Saleh would retain his title until a new leader for the country is elected, according to the signed accord. However, a diplomat in Sanaa told Xinhua that the newly signed Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal contains no change compared with its original version, which was proposed in April by the GCC and stipulated Saleh to go to Parliament to announce his resignation within 30 days after signing it.

Following Saleh's signature, representatives of the ruling party and the opposition coalition signed the deal's attached implementation mechanism in the ceremony attended by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, GCC chief Abdullatif al-Zayani and UN envoy to Yemen Jamal bin Omar.

During his speech following the signing, Saleh accused his opponents of coup against Yemen's constitution, and said that the long-running crisis split Yemen's unity and that he would support the new, upcoming Yemeni government.

"Instead of cooperating to move power smoothly through democratic means, the opposition coalitions and their allies detoured on the Yemeni constitution and carried out a coup against the constitution," he told the ceremony.

"The differences led to a spilt in the Yemeni unity and it would take 10 years for reconstructing the country," he added, as he thanked the Saudi king and the attendance.

"Anyway, what is important was not my signing, but the period afterward and the commitments of implementing it," he said. Meanwhile, Saudi king Abdullah welcomed the move of Saleh and all Yemen's rival leaders in a speech he delivered.

"It is a new page of Yemeni history," Abdullah said, wishing Yemeni people prosperous future.

Commenting on the latest development of Yemeni political arena, Twifeek Ahmed, a member of the opposition coalition said "we hope everything will be OK, this is a great achievement against Saleh."

"I think the opposition leaders will manage to implement the whole terms of the deal and will reveal who is hampering the implementation," Ahmed said.

On the other hand, a ruling party official told Xinhua that " President Saleh will accomplish his term until 2013 if the GCC deal is not implemented in full."

"The next 30 days are crucial, the opposition should be committed to the deal's terms, including evacuating their allies in all sit-in squares and pushing the opposition tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar to withdrew all his armed followers from Sanaa," said the official, who required anonymity.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a press release that "Saleh will head to New York for a medical check after he signs the GCC power-transfer deal." Sporadic clashes between Saleh's armed loyalists and their foes rattled Yemen's major cities after Saleh signed the GCC initiative, according to several witnesses.

At least seven people were wounded in fresh clashes in southern restive province of Taiz between the rival forces, medics and witnesses said.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters in the sit- in square in Sanaa rejected the deal, vowing to escalate demonstrations until Saleh is brought to justice for "criminals that killed thousands of people since January," according to the protest's organizers.

A series of huge explosions rocked several neighborhoods of the capital, as artillery shells were exchanged between government forces and tribal rebels led by the opposition powerful tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar in Hassaba district.

Witnesses said that the shelling targeted the residential houses of Sadiqal-Ahmar, while government sources accused al-Ahmar 's followers of shelling the headquarters of the Interior Ministry as well as some other government establishments.

Yemen witnessed a political crisis triggered by anti-government protests calling for an end to Saleh's 33-year rule since late January this year. When the protests started to escalate in April, the GCC proposed a deal to solve the Yemeni crisis, which was signed Wednesday by Saleh after months-long mediation of UN envoy bin Omar.