Yemen opposition inks accord to end crisis
Yemen's opposition on Saturday signed a Gulf-brokered accord for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to cede power, opposition sources said, with the embattled leader expected to follow suit on Sunday.
Saleh, who would quit within 30 days under the agreement, earlier slammed it as a "coup" that will aid Al-Qaeda but said he reluctantly accepted it for the sake of the nation.
Since late January, security forces have mounted a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protests, leaving at least 180 people dead, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.
Three students were shot and wounded on Saturday in Hodeida, west of Sanaa, during clashes between security forces and Hodeida University students on an anti-regime protest, witnesses and medics said.
Various opposition leaders declined to publicly confirm the Saturday signing, saying an announcement would be made on Sunday.
One opposition official said on condition of anonymity that opposition leaders met Saturday with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which brokered the deal, along with the US, British, EU and United Arab Emirates ambassadors.
He did not confirm or deny the accord had been inked but said "the important thing is that the president sign" the agreement.
A spokesman for Saleh's ruling General People's Congress, meanwhile, said the president would sign on Sunday. "Saleh will sign the document in his capacity as president of the republic and the GPC," said Tareq al-Shami.
GPC Secretary General Sultan al-Barakani also confirmed that the government side would sign on Sunday, while adding that the opposition had declined to sign in the presidential palace.
Under the terms of the proposal, Saleh would hand power to the vice president 30 days after the signing, and he and his aides would be granted immunity from prosecution by parliament.
A national unity government led by a prime minister from the opposition would be formed, and a presidential election would follow 60 days after Saleh's departure.
Noman said a commission made up of members of the regime, the opposition, the United States, European Union and United Nations would be formed to "supervise the application of the agreement over 30 days."
Meanwhile, Saleh termed the agreement a "coup" and warned it could bolster Al-Qaeda.
"The initiative is in fact purely a coup operation but we will deal positively with it for the sake of the motherland," Saleh said.
He warned the United States and the European Union that Al-Qaeda would benefit. "The departure of the regime ... means the departure of Yemeni unity and the republic," he said.
"If the regime goes, Al-Qaeda will flourish in (the provinces of) Hadramout and Shabwa and Abyan, and the situation will be worse," he said, addressing "our friends in the United States and the European Union."
Saleh has been a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has claimed attacks against US and other Western interests.
The mass protests in Yemen since January were part of "an agenda of the major powers to export their problems and impose their tutelage on the poor because of their own economic and political problems," Saleh charged.
He spoke at a military parade organised at a Sanaa police station for the 21st anniversary of Yemen's north-south unification, which is to be celebrated on Sunday.
Saleh charged that funding for the anti-regime protests had come from the oil-rich Arab states of the Gulf, in a rare criticism of Yemen's neighbours.
"Money flows in from abroad, including through some official channels," and also from the Muslim Brotherhood, "especially in GCC countries," according to the president.
In the main southern city of Aden, thousands of people rallied on Saturday to commemorate the region's failed succession bid, while the main separatist movement backed unity in a post-Saleh Yemen.
A Southern Movement member read a statement to the crowd appealing for the establishment of a federal system recognising the rights of southerners after Saleh's departure.