Yemeni Prez Saleh signs power-transfer deal

Yemeni Prez Saleh signs power-transfer deal

Vice President Abed R Mansour to lead govt within 30 days

Saleh was shown on Arabic satellite television stations on Wednesday signing a proposal by his country’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbours to end his country’s 9-month old uprising.

Saudi state TV showed a smiling Saleh sitting next to Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh as he signed four copies of the proposal. He then clapped briefly.

The plan calls for a power transfer to Saleh’s vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, within 30 days and early presidential elections within 90 days of the signing. It also calls for a two-year transition period.

The deal gives Saleh immunity from prosecution.

Saleh’s signature on the Gulf-brokered accord would start a new chapter in Arab world’s poorest country. Since January, tens of thousands of Yemenis have protested in cities and towns across the nation, calling for democracy and the fall of Saleh’s regime. The uprising has led to a countrywide security collapse, with armed tribesmen battling security forces in different regions and al-Qaeda-linked militants stepping up operations in the country’s restive south.

For months, the US and other world powers have tried to get Saleh to agree to a proposal sponsored by Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab allies to end the crisis. Speaking to reporters in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, said opposition and ruling parties agreed on a mechanism to carry out the plan.

Saleh has repeatedly agreed to sign the deal, only to back away at the last minute. This time, though, Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia early on Wednesday before the announcement was made.

Yemeni state TV reported on Saleh’s arrival in Riyadh and said Gulf Arab representatives who sponsored the agreement and European and American envoys also attended the signing event.

Saleh has clung to power despite the 9-month-old uprising, daily mass protests calling for his ouster and a June assassination attempt that left him badly wounded and forced him to travel to Saudi Arabia for more than three months of hospital treatment.

The unarmed protesters have held their ground with remarkable resilience, flocking to the streets of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities and towns to demand reforms and braving a violent crackdown by government forces that has killed hundreds.