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Yemen's neighbors step up role in pushing for Saleh's exit

The Gulf Cooperation Council is joining negotiations to end Yemen's political stalemate. Its role – especially that of Saudi Arabia, Yemen's largest donor – could prove far more influential than that of the West.

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Escalating violence adds urgency

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A sharp return to violence this week brought additional condemnation and urgency to the devolving situation. At least 15 were killed this week in attacks on protesters in Taiz, Hodeida, and Sanaa.

In response to the continued bloodshed, Catherine Ashton, High Representative for the European Union, called for a swift resolution to the crisis.

“I am gravely concerned by reports of violent repression, including live ammunition, against demonstrators,” Ms. Ashton said in a press statement. “I reiterate my call for an orderly political transition to begin without delay in order to resolve the current crisis and pave the way to reforms…Transition must begin now."

The US, which throughout the past decade has been strongly allied with Saleh on counterterrorism efforts, also appeared to shift positions this week. "Obviously the situation right now is a difficult one," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters on Tuesday. "The longer it festers, the more difficult it becomes."

Saudi Arabia may be a key player in that transition, should it occur. It is the only country that contributes direct budgetary assistance to Yemen, with total aid amounting to more than $1 billion, says Mr. Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment.

A proposal to transfer power to Saleh's deputy

With Saleh’s grasp on power outside of the capital diminishing rapidly and some governates, or provinces, already throwing off the remnants of his rule, Saudi Arabia and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have a vested interest in stemming further destabilization.

“What we’re seeing from Saudi Arabia is more interest in building the capacity in Yemen to be a more capable state, preventing Yemen from becoming Afghanistan on their border,” says Boucek.

Mohammed Abou Lahoum, a senior leader in Saleh’s General People's Congress party, confirmed that the GCC has already submitted a proposal to the president that includes immunity for Saleh and would transfer executive power to his deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

President Saleh has not issued an official response.

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