Armed Yemeni government loyalists trapped Arab and Western diplomats inside an embassy on Sunday to block the signing of a political accord that would unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.
Saleh, a political survivor who has twice backed out of signing at the last minute, is under strong diplomatic pressure to seal the Gulf-brokered deal to end three months of protests against his rule.
The deal, if Saleh signs, would within a month make him the third Arab leader ousted by popular street protests this year. But a diplomat, speaking hours after Saleh was due to have signed, said chances of a signing were now looking slim.
"The issue of the ruling party signing is being complicated, and chances of finishing the deal are getting weak," a Gulf diplomat told Reuters in the Yemeni capital.
The deal would give Saleh immunity from prosecution, ensuring a dignified exit after nearly 33 years at the helm of the Arabian Peninsula state, located on a shipping lane through which three million barrels of oil pass every day.
Hundreds of armed Saleh loyalists rallied against the deal on Sunday, blocking main roads and preventing a Gulf mediator from heading to the presidential palace in Sanaa,.
Later they surrounded the United Arab Emirates embassy, witnesses said.
"We reject signing the Gulf initiative and the coup against legitimacy," some pro-Saleh demonstrators shouted from their cars over loudspeakers while others piled up stone barricades to block traffic.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Yemen's Saleh On Verge Of Signing Off On Transition Deal; Diplomats Cornered
After twice backing out of a planned transition to a new government, Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh is expected to sign off on a deal that would lead to a new government and Saleh's loyalists aren't happy. They're trying to hold up the deal by blocking diplomatic traffic and surrounding the UAE embassy in an attempt to thwart a deal: