Yemeni President Arrives to Saudi Arabia To Sign Power Transfer Deal
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday flew to Saudi Arabia to sign a deal brokered by the Gulf states by which he would step down from office in exchange for being granted judicial immunity. The Yemeni state television gave no more details about the ceremony, adding that representatives of the opposition were invited.
The move comes after UN envoy Jamal Benomar, who managed, with the help of the US and European Union, to agree to a compromise to implement the power transfer deal agreed by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The president was invited by the king of Saudi Arabia and arrived to Riyadh on Wednesday. Sources in Sanaa said that the president received a phone call from the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who congratulated him from the move.
The unrest in Yemen was a cause for concern for the Saudi Arabian leaders, who fear that a war at the borders of Saudi Arabia could cause trouble for the country that is number one oil exporter of the world, a fear shared by the American allies as well, who have long supported Saleh in his fight against al-Qaeda.
Opposition said that the Yemeni president flew to Saudi Arabia because the GCC secretary general refused to go to Sanaa, after doing this three times before only to leave without any signature on the brokered deal.
The deal proposed by the GCC and agreed by the UN Security Council, though it is said that the security council opposed to granting him immunity, specifies that the president would transfer power to his deputy, who will be under obligation to call early presidential elections within three months.
The people protesting in the streets of the country strongly expressed their disapproval of the plan to grant Saleh, his family and his clique immunity, as the GCC plan stated, demanding that he be brought to justice to answer for his actions.
Renegade general Ali Mohsen and tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar, who are disputing power, may also try to obstruct the deal.
The unrest in Yemen began in February and claimed the lives of 900 people, while Saleh made a few promises to step down. In June he was subject to an assassination attempt, which made him go to Saudi Arabia for treatment, living power to his son.
People in Yemen thought he would not come back, but he made an unexpected return, prompting the people to take it to the streets again.
If he signs the deal, he will become the fourth Arab president to lose his office one way or another, after Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar al Qaddafi in Libya.11