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Saleh, Yemen opposition agree on plan to transfer power

But protesters are angry about the deal, which was brokered by Gulf countries and would give President Saleh and his relatives immunity despite protest violence that has killed at least 120.

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Saleh is notoriously capricious. Less than 24 hours after agreeing to the GCC initiative on Saturday, the president told the BBC that he would step down only at the demand of the majority of the country.

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“I will not be subjected to a minority,” he said, adding that he considered the GCC initiative to be a temporary solution.

But Saleh may well find himself bound to the agreement after months of intense international pressure from the US, European Union, and most recently from Yemen’s largest donor, Saudi Arabia.

“Anyone who tries to backtrack on the deal at this point will lose legitimacy and international support,” says Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, a Sanaa-based independent political analyst. “I don’t think anyone is foolish enough to back out now.”

Protesters vow to fight against JMP

According to the GCC agreement, the president would hand his resignation to the parliament, which could either accept or reject his offer. If it accepted his resignation, the national unity government would draft a new constitution and oversee elections in 60 days. Under the proposal, 50 percent of parliamentary seats in the interim government would be allotted to Saleh’s GPC party, 40 percent going to the JMP, and 10 percent to “other."

The JMP was initially hesitant to agree to the deal. But sensing a fleeting moment of opportunity, opposition leaders seem to have come to terms with the agreement, provided that demonstrators outside JMP control are allowed to exercise their right to demonstrate.

“At this point we’ve agreed to the initiative, but have not officially signed it,” says JMP spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri.

The vast majority of protesters who have taken to Yemen’s streets are unaffiliated with the JMP, however, and have vowed to stay in the streets and add the JMP's agreement to the GCC plan to their list of grievances.

“If the JMP continues with this agreement, we’ll stay here and protest against them too,” says Majdy al-Awaj, a demonstrator. Other demonstrators spoke of attempting to escalate protests in coming days, with the possibility of marching on the presidential palace – a move that would almost certainly result in violence.

While the initiative may lack support among demonstrators, it could be the most practical way to diminish the threat of widespread violence. Such violence is a distinct possibility since Maj.Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the country’s top commander, defected last month and ordered his soldiers to defend protesters. The capital has been divided by opposing troops since.

“The protests will certainly continue, but the military standoff is likely to come to an end,” says Mr. Iryani.


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