Persian Gulf Coalition Joins in Seeking Ouster of Yemeni President
By LAURA KASINOF
SANA, Yemen — An organization of oil-rich Persian Gulf states has joined the increasing number of international voices calling for a transfer of presidential powers in Yemen.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation regional coalition, “hopes to conclude an agreement with the Yemeni president to step down,” Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, said Thursday in New York, according to the Qatari official news agency. The council’s new demand for a transition of power in Yemen represents a shift in policy for the organization, known as the G.C.C., whose member states are Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recently sent troops to Bahrain under the aegis of the council, whose Sunni rulers had become anxious over protests challenging that country’s Sunni king.
The council’s ambassadors to Yemen presented President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemeni opposition parties with a proposal for the transfer of power, and invited both sides to Riyadh, the capital of neighboring Saudi Arabia, to discuss the plan.
Mr. Saleh responded positively to the offer of mediation on Wednesday, according to the state-run news agency Saba.
Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, said political leaders were studying the proposal, which does not set a specific time for Mr. Saleh to leave office.
Another Yemeni official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because negotiations were continuing, said that the administration viewed the initiative as “positive” as long as “some modifications are accepted.” He did not indicate what those modifications were.
This week, Britain and the European Union announced their desire for a “political transition” as soon as possible.
The Obama administration, which had long backed Mr. Saleh, has quietly shifted positions and decided that he is unlikely to institute reforms and must be eased out of power, according to American and Yemeni officials.
The Gulf Cooperation Council plan — which resembles a proposal by the Joint Meeting Parties, Yemen’s coalition of opposition political parties — calls for power to be handed over to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, and for the creation of a national unity government. The proposal also calls for immunity for Mr. Saleh and his family after he steps down.
The Joint Meeting Parties accepted the proposal, said Yassin Saeed Noman, head of the coalition, though he said it still needed to hear from other groups, including Houthi rebels, the southern separatist movement and youth protest leaders, before heading to Riyadh.
“We will welcome the initiative,” Mr. Noman said Thursday in a telephone interview, though he had questions about the issue of immunity for Mr. Saleh, including whether the president would remain in Yemen once power was transferred.
“The main point here is how to hand over power,” Mr. Noman said. “And this is the common factor for all political forces.”
Leaders in the protest movement said they would respond to the initiative soon.
Earlier this week, the gulf council had said it would press the Yemeni government and the opposition to work toward an agreement to “overcome the status quo.” The group called for a return to negotiations to “achieve the aspirations of the Yemeni people by means of reforms.”
Scores of Yemenis continue to demonstrate across the country, seeking Mr. Saleh’s immediate ouster.On Thursday, at least one protester was shot and killed during a clash between security forces and antigovernment protesters in the central city of Taiz, according to a local doctor. More than 100 protesters have been killed since the political uprising began in February.