News / Middle East

Yemen Opposition Rejects Saleh's Call for Timetable to Step Down

Yemeni opposition leaders have criticized President Ali Abdullah Saleh for saying that he needed certain guarantees in order to sign an initiative that calls for his resignation.

Opposition leader Mohammed Qahtan said Thursday that Saleh's refusal to sign the plan and step down amounted to a call for "war."

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative calls for the Yemeni leader to hand over power to a deputy.  But on Wednesday, Saleh said he would only agree to the measure if he received a guaranteed timetable to implement the plan from Gulf states, European nations and the United States.  He said he had been under international pressure to sign the deal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. rejected Saleh's call for international guarantees on a timetable, calling them unnecessary. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Saleh should sign the GCC agreement "without further delay."

Meanwhile, supporters of a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate end to violence and a transfer of power in Yemen have circulated a draft measure to Security Council members and are hoping for a vote by early next week.

Diplomats said Wednesday the five veto-wielding council members had reached agreement on major elements in the British-drafted plan.

Also Wednesday, Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition activist Tawakkul Karman met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York as part of her campaign to force Saleh to stand down. Karman has urged the world body to reject any granting of legal immunity to the Yemeni leader and his inner circle.

Yemen has been plagued by months of violence connected to an opposition uprising against President Saleh, and an anti-government insurgency by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida.

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

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