Saleh Exit Talks Hit Snag in Yemen Over Terrorism Interests
SAN'A, Yemen�Yemeni negotiators hashing out a transfer of power that would have longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh resign within days are stuck on crucial details concerning the fate of his relatives who lead the country's elite counterterrorism units, a key concern of the embattled leader as well as of international allies like America and Saudi Arabia, according to people familiar with the discussions, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The negotiators, which include aides to Mr. Saleh, Yemen's leading general who defected to the side of antigovernment protests and two leading opposition political leaders, are working out these details amid increasing tension across the Arab nation. The streets of the capital San'a bristled with tanks and armed soldiers on almost every major intersection Friday, as thousands of demonstrators gathered there and other major cities to push their demands for regime change.
Ahead of the noon prayers on Friday, protest organizers in San'a announced that they wouldn't follow through on plans to march from the central Tahrir Square where they have based their demonstration toward the presidential palace, saying they wanted to minimize the chance for violence and allow political negotiations more time to advance.
People familiar with the negotiations say that President Saleh is trying to insist on guarantees of immunity from prosecution for him and his family and that a transitional authority contain figures he considers allies, like the current vice president or the prime minister. One person close to the talks said that the leader does not want to end up like former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a corruption investigation after being forced from office in February. "Saleh has learned from Egypt that he would face trials if he leaves with no guarantees," said this person.
The first breakthrough in talks came early Thursday when the two men, who have alternated as allies and rivals throughout Yemen's modern history, agreed to end their careers simultaneously. That has allowed discussions to advance and focus on security arrangements, including counterterrorism relationships with America and Saudi Arabia, Yemen's larger neighbor to the north, according to these people.
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