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Ambassadors Escape Surrounded Diplomatic Mission in Yemen

In this image taken from TV, showing Yemeni army helicopter emerging from the dust as it airlifts U.S. and other ambassadors out of a besieged embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, to the Presidential Palace to witness ruling party leaders signing an agreement for the

Witnesses say helicopters in Yemen have airlifted the ambassadors of the U.S., Britain and Gulf Arab nations who were trapped inside a diplomatic mission surrounded by armed loyalists to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The loyalists surrounded the United Arab Emirates Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, on Sunday. They blocked roads and roamed the streets near the mission, where the ambassadors were discussing a Gulf region-brokered deal that would have Saleh transfer power within a month.

Yemen's president appears to be backing out again from signing the deal.

Hours before he was scheduled to sign the agreement Sunday, Saleh said he is not interested in signing a deal inked "behind closed doors."

Plans to sign the deal have already stalled twice because of objections by the Yemeni leader.

Yemen's opposition signed the pact Saturday with the understanding that the president would sign the agreement Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Saleh protesters Sunday poured into Sana'a's central square, which has become the center of opposition protests.

The agreement offers Saleh immunity from prosecution if he transfers power to a deputy within 30 days of signing.

In a speech Saturday, the president denounced the U.S.-backed proposal as a "coup" and warned that his departure could allow al-Qaida to take over parts of Yemen.

The Yemeni leader has faced months of anti-government protests demanding he end his more than 30-year rule. His government has responded to the demonstrations with a bloody crackdown.

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