Yemen death toll mounts, West ups pressure on Saleh | Pakistan Today

Yemen death toll mounts, West ups pressure on Saleh

SANAA – Western pressure mounted on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday to stand down as least 24 people were killed in as many hours and Gulf states sought to mediate a deal with the opposition. A spokesman for Yemen’s main opposition coalition, in an initial reaction to an offer by the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Saleh’s foes were ready for a conditional mediation.
“We have welcomed (a GCC invitation) and said we will attend, but to discuss a transfer of power only,” spokesman Mohammed Qahtan told AFP of the offer, made at a meeting of GCC foreign ministers on Sunday. An official source, declining to be named, said Sanaa was also in favour of talks, which would be held in Riyadh at a still-undetermined date. But the opposition remained cautious.
“We welcome any effort that would lead to (Salleh’s) immediate departure, but we haven’t received anything to discuss yet,” said Mohammed al-Sabri, another top opposition official. Meanwhile, the European Union urged Saleh to begin a political transition “without delay,” a day after Washington pressed him to negotiate a peaceful handover, warning that Al-Qaeda stood ready to benefit from a power vacuum.
Five people were killed on Tuesday in a firefight in Sanaa between troops of an army division that has sided with anti-regime protesters and tribesmen close to Saleh, security sources said.The clash near the Sanaa University base of youth protesters came a day after 19 demonstrators were gunned down in clashes with security forces in the southern city of Taez and in Hudaydah on the Red Sea.
On Monday, security forces in Taez opened fire after protesters demanding Saleh’s ouster marched on the governorate headquarters in the city, 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Sanaa. More than 100 people have been killed in Yemen’s crackdown on protesters who launched nationwide demonstrations in late January to unseat Saleh, in power for the past three decades.
Washington, which has considered Saleh a key ally in its “war on terror” but expressed fears of Al-Qaeda taking advantage of a prolonged political crisis, is now pressing him to negotiate a transition of power. “We are obviously concerned that in this period of political unrest that Al-Qaeda and other groups will attempt to take advantage of that power vacuum,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.
“That is one of the reasons why we urge political dialogue to take place and a timetable for this transition that President Saleh has talked about to be begun,” Carney said. The New York Times, quoting US diplomats, intelligence analysts and counter-terrorism officials, said counter-terrorism operations had already ground to a halt in southern Yemen.

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