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April 27, 2011

Yemen's Opposition Warns That Violence Could Derail Transition

Yemen's government and an opposition coalition are moving forward with plans to sign an agreement that calls for the president to hand over power, although opposition leaders warn that continued violence against protesters could derail the plan.

The opposition alliance released a statement Thursday saying that it may be unable to sign the agreement if, in its words, President Ali Abdullah Saleh uses the accord to kill civilians.

On Wednesday, at least 13 people were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters at anti-government rallies demanding Saleh's immediate departure from office.

Some in the opposition say they oppose the agreement because it gives the president a month-long window to resign and because Saleh and his family would be granted immunity for prosecution.

VOA's Davin Hutchins speaks with journalists Nasser Arrabyee and Erik Stier who have been following developments on the GCC agreement to the political cirisis in Yemen:

Yemen's main opposition coalition, however, remains behind the plan.

Amnesty International is expressing concern about granting immunity to Saleh.  

An official with the rights group, Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart, said Saleh should not be allowed  to "evade accountability for the long catalogue of human rights crimes committed under his rule."

However, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has welcomed the deal. She said the plan represents Yemen's "best chance" for addressing its economic, social and security challenges.

The agreement was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council. It calls for Saleh to hand over power to a deputy and resign within 30 days of signing the initiative. It would establish a unity government that would include opposition members.

Gulf council officials say the agreement may be finalized during a Sunday meeting in Saudi Arabia.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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