A European Union diplomat says that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has "indicated a readiness" to empower his deputy to manage a political transition to a new leadership for the country.
The news comes as Yemeni medics and activists say fighting between government forces and opposition fighters in the country's third-largest city has killed at least nine people.
EU ambassador to Yemen Michele Cervone D'Urso said Wednesday he believes the government and opposition can finalize details of that transition as soon as Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi returns to the country from the United States on Thursday.
D'Urso says both sides "could be near to a deal" but need to demonstrate a political will to reach it. His comments to VOA came via e-mail amid reports in the Yemeni media of Saleh's intention to strike a transition deal.
President Saleh has faced nine months of peaceful protests and armed rebellion aimed at ending his 33-year autocratic rule. He has repeatedly refused to sign a U.N.-backed plan to hand power to a deputy within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution. Instead, he has demanded international guarantees about a timetable for implementing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) proposal.
In the latest violence, activists say troops loyal to President Saleh fired tank and mortar shells at several neighborhoods in Taiz, which has a hub of the opposition uprising. Witnesses say several civilians were among those killed, while more than 40 people were wounded.
Yemen's state news agency Saba says government troops were responding to the seizure of buildings in Taiz by opposition fighters. It says the governor of Taiz later ordered all security forces to withdraw from the streets of the city as part of a cease-fire mediated by local officials.
The French news agency says Yemeni government troops also battled fighters loyal to an opposition tribal chief in the capital, Sana'a late Tuesday. It says three people were killed in the fighting.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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