Saleh reneges on Yemen deal amid unrest

May 1, 2011 - 0:0

Yemen's president says he won't leave the country to sign a hard-fought political deal because he fears his departure could spark a coup, a senior ruling party official told CNN on Saturday.

The stance threatens to collapse an agreement brokered by the six-nation Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) to end the violent political standoff across Yemen, still reeling this week from one of the deadliest days in months of protests that have pitted demonstrators against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Meanwhile, Saleh’s forces killed four protestors while pushing hundreds of anti-government demonstrators out of a square where they had been camped, witnesses said.
Saleh wants his adviser to go in his place to Saudi Arabia and sign the agreement on his behalf. But that's a no-go for the country's opposition, which is threatening to back out of the PGCC accord if Saleh does not personally ink the arrangement.
“Saleh feels that a planned coup would take place if he leaves the country,” according to the senior ruling party official, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.
“We do not feel it is for the best of Yemen's interest that Saleh attends the signing in Riyadh. Saleh is a member of the ruling party and has the right to send members on his behalf,” the source said.
PGCC's secretary-general Abdullatif Al-Zayani arrived in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Saturday, according to Tareq Shami, spokeman for the ruling General People's Congress,
The source in the ruling party said Saleh will work to convince Al-Zayani “that it will be fine for a delegation to go on his behalf to Riyadh.”
Opposition and ruling party officials say Al-Zayani will work to ease the heightening tensions over Saleh's decision.
This development comes as the massive countrywide protests that started in February continue to shake the impoverished and politically unstable nation, whose unpopular government.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters poured out into the streets of at least 13 of the country's provinces on Saturday, all demanding Saleh step down immediately.
Saleh's forces, backed by tanks and heavy weapons, forcibly removed about 1,500 demonstrators from a square where they had been camping in the al-Mansour district of the southern port city of Aden for about two months. Four demonstrators were killed by gunshot wounds, said activist Wajdi al-Shaabi, the Associated Press reported.
Several others suffered bullet wounds in the melee and then later when demonstrators angrily marched through several neighborhoods denouncing the move, al-Shaabi said.
He said a building and a small hostel were on fire, sending plumes of smoke rising over the city. Gunfire and ambulance sirens could be heard throughout the city.
Similar sit-ins have taken place in other cities. More than 140 protesters have been killed since demonstrations began.
Photo: Anti-government protesters have already rejected Saleh's deal and have called for him to be held accountable. (EPA photo)