Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council proposal to begin a transition of power, objecting to the inclusion of some opposition members in the deal, said Abdu al-Janadi, the deputy information minister.
Saleh’s decision came after the U.S. stepped up pressure on the Yemeni leader to accept the proposal as a step toward ending protests against the regime.
John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, called Saleh this morning to urge him “to sign and implement the Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered agreement so that Yemen is able to move forward immediately with its political transition,” a White House statement said.
“This transfer of power represents the best path forward for Yemen to become a more secure, unified, and prosperous nation and for the Yemeni people to realize their aspirations for peace and political reform,” the statement said.
Yemen, a partner in U.S. efforts to root out al-Qaeda and its sympathizers in the region, is one of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa that have been shaken by anti-government protests. The Obama administration has condemned the government’s violent crackdown.
The head of the gulf council, Abdulatif al-Zayani, left Yemen today without securing the approval of Yemeni parties on the proposal to end the standoff, the state-run Saba news agency said.
Earlier, a representative of the opposition, Mohammed al-Mutawakkil, said Yemen’s ruling and opposition parties were close to signing the deal, which would have Saleh stepping down within 30 days. The accord guarantees Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution, he said.
The agreement, brokered by members of the six-nation gulf council, aims to end weeks of anti-government protests that began in January. At least 100 people have died in clashes with government security forces, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights.
If he steps down, Saleh would be the third Middle Eastern leader forced from office by protest movements this year, after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
GCC officials are seeking to avert an escalation of the violence in Yemen or a deadly military divide like the one in Libya. Rising social unrest also threatens to strengthen al-Qaeda as it seeks to use Yemen, the poorest Arab nation, as a base from which to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil.
Obama tomorrow plans to offer a fresh blueprint for the U.S. role in the region following the wave of upheavals that began in December.