Friday, March 25, 2011

"Day of Departure" In Yemen Hits Snags As Saleh Dickers Over Terms Of Exile

Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh is dickering over the terms of his exile and negotiations are continuing. He spoke to a sympathetic crowd calling for a peaceful transition to capable but not malicious hands that are elected:

Opposition groups also held protests demanding his ouster.

Saleh has refused to exit unless there can be a handover of power to those who have previously been loyal to Saleh and that he and his relatives would not be prosecuted, particularly those involved in counter terrorism operations:
SAN'A, Yemen—Yemeni negotiators hashing out a transfer of power that would have longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh resign within days are stuck on crucial details concerning the fate of his relatives who lead the country's elite counterterrorism units, a key concern of the embattled leader as well as of international allies like America and Saudi Arabia, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The negotiators, which include aides to Mr. Saleh, Yemen's leading general who defected to the side of antigovernment protests and two leading opposition political leaders, are working out these details amid increasing tension across the Arab nation. The streets of the capital San'a bristled with tanks and armed soldiers on almost every major intersection Friday, as thousands of demonstrators gathered there and other major cities to push their demands for regime change.

Ahead of the noon prayers on Friday, protest organizers in San'a announced that they wouldn't follow through on plans to march from the central Tahrir Square where they have based their demonstration toward the presidential palace, saying they wanted to minimize the chance for violence and allow political negotiations more time to advance.

People familiar with the negotiations say that President Saleh is trying to insist on guarantees of immunity from prosecution for him and his family and that a transitional authority contain figures he considers allies, like the current vice president or the prime minister. One person close to the talks said that the leader does not want to end up like former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a corruption investigation after being forced from office in February. "Saleh has learned from Egypt that he would face trials if he leaves with no guarantees," said this person.
Saleh wants power handed over to "safe hands". He's also met with the top general who defected earlier this week.

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