UN Council to demand Saleh stand down in Yemen

Persona non grata

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council will vote Friday on a resolution calling on Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately stand down and condemning the killings blamed on his government.
The proposed resolution, which has the backing of all five permanent members of the Security Council, "strongly condemns" government violence against demonstrators and backs a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peace plan under which Saleh must hand over power.
Protests against Saleh erupted in January and hundreds have since been killed. With the violence worsening, this is the first resolution to be considered by the council.
Diplomats said events in Libya, where ousted strongman Moamer Gathafi was killed on Thursday, could also put symbolic pressure on Saleh. There is no threat or indication of sanctions in the Yemen resolution however.
Saleh has said he agrees to the plan by the six Gulf states but has refused to sign it or implement any of its provisions. The Yemen violence is meanwhile worsening.
The resolution has been drawn up by Britain with its European allies on the council. The vote will be held on Friday at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT).
European diplomats said they were confident that all 15 council members would back the text.
The resolution, obtained by AFP, calls on Saleh to carry out his promise for the "immediate signing" of the GCC plan and "calls for this commitment to be translated into action, in order to achieve a peaceful transition of power" without delay.
The draft also "strongly condemns the continued human rights violations by the Yemeni authorities, such as the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors."
But it also demands that "all sides" reject the use of violence for political goals and says that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses "should be held accountable."
The council has so far agreed only two statements, which have lesser diplomatic weight than a resolution, on Yemen.
Saleh's refusal to hand over power since his return to Yemen from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia and growing fears about the growing influence of Al-Qaeda have heightened international concern about the country.
After 33 years in power, Saleh is refusing to step down unless his arch rivals, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, who are currently battling his troops in Sanaa, also step aside.
The capital is now divided between the three while Al-Qaeda controls many provinces.
Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman, who has demanded international proceedings against Saleh, on Thursday held talks with Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig.
Wittig highlighted the deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation in Yemen and "emphasized that President Saleh needs to immediately hand over power," the German mission said in a statement.
Germany hopes that passing the resolution will be a "strong message by the international community" that will help start the transitional change, Wittig said.