Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh Abubakr al-Qirbi Transition of Power
Yemen minister holds hope for power transfer
Foreign minister optimistic about transition deal, but president’s camp warns little progress has been made.
Abubakr al-Qirbi, Yemen’s foreign minister, has said he hopes a deal to transfer power peacefully from Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, could be negotiated soon.
Al-Qirbi said on Saturday that a deal would be based on an offer by the president to step down by year-end after elections and a new constitution.
“I hope it will be today, before tomorrow,” he said.
“President Saleh is willing to look at all possibilities, as long as there are really serious commitments by the JMP [opposition] to come and initiate a serious dialogue between them and the ruling party.”
Speaking about talks on Saturday between the country’s main opposition party and the ruling party, Al-Qirbi said: “I think things are very close if the real intention is really to reach an agreement. But if there are parties who want to obstruct it then of course one cannot predict.”
But Al Arabiya television later quoted Saleh as saying that there had been no progress made towards a deal.
Ahmed al-Sufi, a spokesman for the embattled president, said that Saleh’s vice president and political adviser on Saturday met the US ambassador and tribal and military leaders who have defected to the opposition.
The Associated Press quoted him as saying that the ruling party wanted to discuss a transition, but that the opposition demanded Saleh’s immediate resignation and that the demand was unacceptable.
Saleh said on Friday he was ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed in Yemen, but only to what he called “safe hands” after weeks of street demonstrations demanding his immediate departure.
Saleh has come under mounting pressure to resign after snipers firing from rooftops killed 52 protesters a week ago after Friday prayers, triggering a string of defections including that of a senior general.
As well as a violent crackdown on protests, the president has offered a string of concessions, all rejected by opposition parties, including transfer of power after the drafting of a new constitution and holding parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of the year.
Among Saleh’s conditions for leaving office include an indemnity for him and his family from prosecution.
Al Jazeera’s special correspondent in Sanaa said: “One of the key demands of the protesters who we’ve been speaking to is that the family of President Saleh and President Saleh himself face justice for what they have done to the country – so it’s very unlikely that this provision will be accepted by the opposition forces and by the people.”
Yemeni political sources said that some issues that could hold up a deal were whether the opposition would give guarantees not to pursue Saleh and his family legally.
Saleh opponents also want to be sure his close relatives leave positions of power.
Western countries worry that al-Qaeda militants could take advantage of any power vacuum arising from a rocky transition if Saleh, a key US and Saudi ally, finally steps down after 32 years in office.