Yemen president nearing transition deal: minister

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 26, 2011 6:15 AM
Yemen president nearing transition deal: minister

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said he hopes for a deal on a transition of power in Yemen on Saturday, and that the time frame of a transfer of power by President Ali Abdullah Saleh could be negotiated.

"I hope it will be today, before tomorrow," Qirbi, who is serving as caretaker foreign minister, told Reuters, adding that a deal would be based on an offer by the president to step down by year-end after elections and a new constitution.

"President Saleh is willing to look at all possibilities, as long as there are really serious commitments by the JMP (opposition) to come and initiate a serious dialogue between them and the ruling party."

Saleh said on Friday he was ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed in Yemen, but only to what he called "safe hands" after weeks of street demonstrations demanding his immediate ouster.

Talks have been underway on two tracks to work out the details of a deal on a peaceful transition of power in the Arabian Peninsula state that is home to a resurgent arm of al Qaeda, Yemeni political sources have said.

Qirbi said the country's main opposition party would be holding talks with the ruling party on Saturday. Discussions were centering on the time frame of a transition, among other issues.

"I think the time period is something that can be negotiated. It shouldn't be really an obstacle to reach an agreement," he said.

"I think things are very close if the real intention is really to reach an agreement. But if there are parties who want to obstruct it then of course one cannot predict."

Saleh came under mounting pressure to resign after snipers firing from rooftops killed 52 protesters a week ago after Friday prayers, triggering a string of defections including that of a top general.

Saleh has offered a string of concessions, all rejected by opposition parties, including this week to transfer power after the drafting of a new constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of the year.

(Reporting by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammed Ghobari; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)