Yemen opposition seeks details on Gulf plan


SANAA – Yemen opposition parties on Tuesday urged Gulf mediators to spell out whether President Ali Saleh would hand over power early under their proposal to end a two-month crisis over leadership and political reforms.
Gulf Arab foreign ministers said this week they would invite Saleh and the opposition coalition to mediation talks in Riyadh, a key financier of Sanaa who analysts say Saleh trusts, on a transition of power.
The opposition said on Monday they rejected the Gulf Cooperation Council statement on the framework for the talks because it appeared to offer Saleh a waiver from any future prosecutions, demanded by the protest movement in the streets of Sanaa since February. Opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan said on Tuesday the parties also had concerns over the phrase “transfer of power”, which does not specify the timeframe for Saleh to step down. Protesters and the opposition are demanding an immediate exit. “The Gulf states need to clarify the meaning of the transition of power,” he told Al Arabiya TV, adding Gulf states had not yet set a date for their talks invitation. “We are awaiting their call … We have not received (a date), we are awaiting their call, (to see) if there is a new suggestion from them.” Saleh accepted the Gulf framework, after state media initially suggested the government would reject it.
“He (Saleh) has no reservations about transferring power peacefully within the framework of the constitution,” a statement from Saleh’s office said on Monday. A transfer of power could technically last until the next presidential elections scheduled for 2013. Saleh has offered new parliamentary and presidential elections this year as part of political reforms, but says he should stay in power to oversee the change or hand over to what he calls “safe hands”. While protesters want Saleh out now, some in the opposition, which includes Islamists, leftists and Arab nationalists, are prepared for him to stay in power for several months more before handing over to his vice-president. General Ali Mohsen, a kinsman of Saleh whose units are protecting protesters in Sanaa, has welcomed the GCC plan.
But the opposition are worried that Saleh, a shrewd political operator who has been in power since 1978, will still control the process even if he agrees to stand down immediately after mediation talks in Riyadh. Saleh’s deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has said he is not interested in taking over even temporarily, which could open the way for Saleh to nominate an interim successor of his own choice.