|UN envoy Jamal Benomar, centre, has been meeting with both sides in a bid to resolve the crisis [EPA]|
Yemen’s vice-president has said that a deal between the opposition and government that would see the exit of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is close, as the United Nations’ envoy to the country continues a visit aimed at finding a solution to the country’s political crisis.
An opposition leader has dismissed the remarks, made on Saturday to Yemeni state media, as being unrepresentative of a genuine desire for change.
“If President Saleh cares about Yemen’s future and the well-being of the Yemeni people, he must immediately initiate a full transfer of power“
– Victoria Nuland,
Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the vice-president, made the remark during meetings with Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy and ambassadors from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in Sanaa, the SABA news agency reported.
“We all have a task represented in translating UN Security Council resolution 2014 into action on the ground, and this is a task the ruling party and the opposition must shoulder together,” SABA quoted Hadi as saying.
Benomar arrived in Yemen on Thursday to discuss implementation of the UNSC’s resolution, which endorses the deal drawn up by the Gulf Co-operation Council that would see Saleh hand over power to his deputy and end his 33-year rule.
Hadi told the diplomats that discussions with the opposition had covered “85 per cent” of the GCC deal, but did not go into specifics, SABA reported.
Saleh has repeatedly backed down from signing the accord, after publically stating that he would do so.
Months of anti-government protests, and a violent crackdown on demonstrations on the part of the government, have destablised the country and created deep rifts between its tribes and its military.
‘Real pressure needed’
Yasin Numan, a leader of the opposition alliance, told the Reuters news agency that the government must first show that it is committed to the GCC plan.
“What does it mean to talk about a mechanism when the other side has not signed the initiative yet? They must sign it first and then we can talk about its implementation,” Numan said.
“I believe the whole world needs to put real pressure on the other party to sign the accord,” he added.
He said that diplomatic efforts had only encouraged Saleh’s government to use force against protesters.
The latest violence saw at least 11 people killed in the city of Taiz on Friday.
The city was shut down on Saturday, as residents observed a general strike in protest against the killings, which the government says only happened because the opposition had provoked security forces.
On Saturday, the United States said that it was “deeply troubled” by the attacks on civilians, and urged
all parties to exercise “maximum restraint”.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US state department, called for a “prompt investigation” into the killings.
“We are deeply troubled by reports of attacks against civilians in the city of Taez. We extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” Nuland said.
“We condemn violence by all parties in Yemen and call for all sides to exercise maximum restraint.
“If President Saleh cares about Yemen’s future and the well-being of the Yemeni people, he must immediately initiate a full transfer of power” within the framework of a Gulf peace plan, Nuland said.
‘Al-Qaeda fighters’ killed
Meanwhile, the Yemeni government said that its soldiers had killed six al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the southern city of Zinjibar on Saturday.
The city, the capital of Abyan province, was seized in May by fighters who had taken advantage of the turmoil caused by the widespread anti-government protests.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the fighters were still holding some ground in the east of the city.
Six soldiers were wounded in the fighting, he said.
The months of violence in Zinjibar have forced more than 100,000 residents to flee to neighbouring provinces.