Armed Yemeni mob traps envoys

Wielding knives, daggers and swords, hundreds of Saleh loyalists blocked the entrances to the United Arab Emirates Embassy, where at least five ambassadors were gathered in expectation the embattled leader would arrive to sign the deal. “Everybody is worried. We can’t leave the embassy,” said a Saudi diplomat.

Pro-Saleh militiamen dressed in traditional Yemeni dress roamed the streets of the capital, especially outside embassies, and blocked the road to the presidential palace.

At one point, armed men attacked a convoy of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s chief mediator, secretary-general Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, to try to keep it from reaching the UAE Embassy, witnesses said. Pounding the car, they shouted against Gulf intervention in Yemeni affairs.

The convoy of the Chinese ambassador also came under attack by armed men before a police detail was deployed to clear the way and disperse the crowd.

US-backed deal

Saleh has backed away from signing the US-backed deal at least twice before, adding to the opposition’s deep mistrust of a leader known for adept political maneuvering that has kept him in power for decades. The deal, mediated by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, calls for Saleh to step down within 30 days and transfer power to his vice president. It also would give him immunity from prosecution.

Yemen’s opposition coalition signed the deal on Saturday, based on what it said were guarantees the president would sign the next day. But a ruling party statement early Sunday said Saleh objected to signing “behind closed doors” and wanted a public event attended by the opposition.

An official in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, said the GCC would drop the proposal and withdraw from mediation if Saleh did not sign.

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