Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are trying to broker a deal to have Yemen’s president step down and hand over power, possibly to an interimcouncil of tribal and political leaders, sources said on Wednesday.
Ali Abdullah’s Saleh’s at times bloody response to protests, inspired by those in Egypt and Tunisia, against his 32-year rule has tried the patience of his US and Saudi backers.
A variety of official sources say they are now ready to push aside a long-time ally against Yemen based Al Qaeda in the hope of staving off a chaotic collapse of the poorest Arab state.
Though diplomats familiar with the negotiations question whether a deal is anywhere close to being struck, the proposal by the Gulf Arabs involves Saleh finally agreeing to stand down and handing his powers for a short time to a national council.
“The proposal is to have a governing council grouping all the various political parties and tribes for a period that would not exceed three months,” one Gulf official said of a plan to be presented to Saleh and his opponents at talks to take place soon in Saudi Arabia.
A date is not set.
“The council will set the way for elections,” the Gulf official added, echoing other sources in he region and beyond.
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates held talks in Riyadh on Wednesday with the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, with both sides concerned by Iranian intentions in the region and spiralling unrest in Yemen. “We talked about developments all over the region, obviously talked about Iran,”Gates said following the meeting.
“We talked about how to prevent disruptive actions and extremist organisations trying to take advantages of the turbulences in the region,” he added.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have traded accusations with Iran of meddling and interference, especially over Bahrain. Agencies