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Yemen’s Saleh Gets Immunity as Arab League Seeks Peace in Syria

Saleh Gets Immunity as Arab League Seeks Peace in Syria
Anti-government protesters arrive in Sanaa after a five-day 226 kilometers "March of Dignity" from the Red Sea city of Houdieda to demand a trial for outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdulah Saleh. Photographer: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Yemen’s unity government approved a draft law to grant its outgoing president immunity from prosecution as the Arab League urged the Syrian government to end violence against civilian demonstrators.

The draft law, which must also be approved by Yemen’s parliament, would grant Ali Abdullah Saleh and anyone who worked with him in the civil service, security and military immunity from prosecution for acts committed before the law takes effect, the state-run Saba news agency reported.

A new Yemeni government was sworn in last month after Saleh signed an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council to relinquish presidential powers in return for immunity from prosecution. Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi is running the state temporarily and will transfer power to the opposition party after presidential elections on Feb. 21, according to the agreement.

Hadi hopes to transfer power smoothly, Yemen’s Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwah told Al Arabiya television in an interview yesterday.

“The situation in Yemen is still dangerous and it needs the Gulf States to work and help to pass obstacles that could hinder executing” the Gulf council’s agreement, Basindwah said.

Thousands of demonstrators in the Yemeni capital Sanaa protested Saleh’s immunity deal yesterday. They demanded that the president and his relatives face trial for killing more than 1,000 people since the uprising demanding his ouster began a year ago.

Syrian Violence

The Arab League once again called on the Syrian government and armed groups to cease violence against civilians, withdraw troops from urban areas and release political prisoners.

“The Syrian government is urged to immediately and fully abide by its vows to execute the approved protocol in a way that would guarantee security to Syrian civilians and does not obstruct peaceful protests, in order for the delegation’s mission to succeed,” the Cairo-based organization said yesterday in a statement handed to reporters in the Egyptian capital.

Syrian forces killed 32 people yesterday including at least six who died when the Syrian army blasted the Damascus suburb of Madhaya with tank shells and mortars, demolishing several houses, Al Jazeera television reported, citing activists.

Arab League Observers

The League’s observers will continue their mission in Syria as long as the government abides by the agreement, the organization said. Arab League leader Nabil el-Arabi said yesterday he expects to receive a full report from monitors on Jan. 19.

“On the lights of the report to be presented on Jan. 19, a decision will be made, after the committee meets, followed by a ministerial meeting,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jaber al Thani said in a press conference in Cairo. There is “no agreement to send foreigners as part of the Arab League monitors,” he said.

Syrian anti-government fighters killed 11 members of President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces in predawn clashes in Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The fighting in the southern governorate of Daraa, where the 10-month uprising against Assad began, also injured 20, the group said.

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