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YEMEN: Deal outlined for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave within a month

May 18, 2011 |  7:41 am

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to sign a regionally brokered deal with opposition leaders Wednesday to form a transition government and step down within a month, according to Western officials.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation group of oil-producing countries, proposed the deal, which aims to end months of unrest and stabilize the region.

The parties were expected to sign the agreement Wednesday, officials said. However, given the number of times Saleh has backed out of resigning in recent weeks, some opposition leaders said they remained skeptical.

Timeline: Conflict in Yemen

"For our part, we have agreed," said head of the opposition's political bureau Muhammad Naimi. "Whether the government will actually commit to the document, or backtrack again, that is another story."

Earlier this month, Saleh, 65, reneged on a GCC-brokered agreement, asking to change the terms under which he signed and use a different title, angering the opposition.

Saleh has also said that under Yemen's constitution he should serve out his current term, which ends in 2013.

Wednesday’s agreement was brokered in part by GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif Zayani, who traveled to the Yemeni capital of Sana on Saturday for a three-day visit to revive the deal.

Under the plan, which lost Qatar’s support earlier this month, Saleh’s ruling party would work with opposition leaders to form a unity government, with Saleh transferring power to his vice president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament within a month, stepping down with immunity, and the government would hold a presidential election within two months. Leaders of the Persian Gulf nations hope the compromise will ending deadly antigovernment protests, which have rocked the country of 24 million since January.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Sana said it was too early to comment on negotiations Wednesday afternoon.

American, European and gulf officials have all pressured Saleh to sign the agreement in recent days, and have apparently convinced him to sign this time in his capacity as president, despite his earlier insistence on signing only as head of Yemen's ruling party.

Foreign diplomats assisted in negotiating the agreement, were expected to sign it as witnesses and guarantors, and have assured both sides that they will exert diplomatic pressure to enforce its substance. They said they felt the agreement was urgently needed to avoid civil war.

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Timeline: Conflict in Yemen

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo and a special correspondent in Yemen

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