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World

Transition deal in sight for Yemen: minister

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said he will yield power to "safe hands." Now, negotiations are underway to establish a time frame for a possible transition of power.

Protesters in Yemen

Yemen has faced two months of street protests

Yemen's main opposition party is expected to hold talks later Saturday with President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling party about a possible transition of power, according to the country's caretaker foreign minister.

Abubakr al-Qirbi told the Reuters news agency that any deal would be based on an offer by the president to step down by the end of the year, adding that he hoped that an agreement on a transfer of power would come soon.

He said Saleh was ready to look at "all possibilities" if there were "serious commitments" on the part of the opposition Joint Meeting Parties to enter into dialogue.

A dissident regional army commander, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, is said to be leading efforts to form a transitional council. However, the two sides said Ahmar and Saleh failed to strike a deal at secret negotiations on Friday night.

Transition to 'safe hands'

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Saleh has been in power since 1978

The remarks come after Saleh on Friday said he was ready to cede power to stop more bloodshed in the country, but only to what he called "safe hands."

Saleh's ruling party, however, has rejected the growing calls for him to step down.

His General People's Congress (GPC) called it "unacceptable and illogical" for the "minority to impose its will on the majority."

Key US ally

Yemen has seen weeks of street demonstrations demanding Saleh's immediate ouster. The president came under increased pressure to resign after regime loyalists opened fire on one such protest on March 18, killing 52 people.

Saleh is a key US ally against al Qaeda and analysts say this is the reason why Washington's response to crackdowns on the pro-democracy protests has been muted.

A security source in southern Yemen said Saturday that the military had killed at least six suspected al Qaeda militants who attacked an army post in the restive Abyan region, known to be a stronghold of the Islamist group.

Author: Timothy Jones (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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