Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Yemen’s Saleh to respond on reforms, aide says

Reuters, SANA’A

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will respond “positively” to an opposition roadmap for him to step down from power and institute reforms, a senior aide said yesterday, as anti-Saleh protests continued across the country.

Yemen’s coalition of opposition parties, joined by some tribal and religious leaders, proposed a five-point plan this week to Saleh, who has ruled the Arabian Peninsula state for 32 years.

Leaders of the opposition coalition say their plan would pave the way for Saleh to step down by the end of this year, though youths and activists have said they are skeptical of the plan and are demanding Saleh’s immediate resignation.

“There will be a positive response to the proposal,” a senior official told reporters. “The details are being discussed by the two sides right now and we’ll announce a final position at a later time.”

The official did not specify when.

However, Saleh was unable to persuade opponents that his previous offer to step down in 2013 was anything more than a maneuver to ward off unrest, galvanized by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

“This is clearly a way of getting around the youth revolution. The protesters will not accept anything other than the departure of this regime immediately and with no delays,” said Samia al-Aghbari, a leading Sana’a activist.

The opposition’s plan includes changing the Constitution, rewriting election laws to ensure fair representation in parliament, removing Saleh’s relatives from leadership positions in the army and security forces and guaranteeing the right to peaceful protest.

“We shouldn’t read too much into a so-called positive response,” said Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “The strategy now is to stall ... and hold on as long as possible and hope protesters lose steam. I don’t think we should be under the illusion Saleh will become a democrat overnight.”

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