Saleh Refuses to Sign Yemen Deal as GCC, Western Mediators Flown Out of Besieged UAE Embassy


Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned on Sunday of civil war if the opposition defied his call for them to be present at his palace for him to sign a Gulf deal on a transition of power, as pro-regime gunmen encircled a meeting of Arab and Western diplomatic mediators.

"If they remain stubborn, we will confront them everywhere with all possible means," he said in a televised address, moments before members of his ruling party were seen signing the Gulf Cooperation Council deal.

But Saleh refused to sign unless opposition were present.

"If they don't bow, and want to take the country into a civil war, let them be responsible for it and for the blood that was shed and that will be shed if they insist on their stupidity," he added.

Gulf Cooperation Council chief Abdul Latif al-Zayani left Sanaa earlier on Sunday after failing to secure Saleh's signature on the deal, a Yemeni official said.

Al-Zayani has "left without getting the signature of the president," the spokesman of Yemen's ruling General People's Congress, Tareq al-Shami, told Agence France Presse.

Earlier Sunday, al-Zayani and several Western diplomats were airlifted by a Yemeni helicopter out of the Emirati embassy in Sanaa, which was encircled by pro-Saleh gunmen, witnesses said.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan called his Yemeni counterpart Abu Bakr al-Kurbi urging him to "take swift measures to secure" his country's embassy and those inside, the Gulf state's WAM state news agency said.

Among the Western diplomats pinned down were the ambassadors of Britain, the European Union and the United States.

Meanwhile, opposition members said a protester was killed by pro-regime "thugs" blocking roads in Sanaa as hundreds of thousands of Saleh opponents took to the streets.

The opposition, meanwhile, urged the United States and Saudi Arabia to pressure Saleh to sign the exit plan and vowed it would press on with protests after four months of deadly street demonstrations.

"Only the United States and Saudi Arabia are able to pressure him," Mohammed al-Qahtan, spokesman for the Common Forum umbrella group of opposition parties in parliament, told AFP.

"If they make it clear to him that he will be held responsible for the failure of the mediation efforts, he will sign," he said. But, "if Saleh does not sign, the revolt will escalate and he will be thrown out of office."

Opposition sources said on Saturday that they had signed the accord for Saleh to cede power.

Under the terms of the Gulf initiative, Saleh would hand power to the vice president 30 days after the signing, and he and his aides would be granted immunity from prosecution by parliament.

A national unity government led by a prime minister from the opposition would be formed, and a presidential election would follow 60 days after Saleh's departure.

Since late January, security forces have mounted a bloody crackdown on protests demanding Saleh's departure, leaving at least 181 people dead, according to a toll compiled from reports by activists and medics.