Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yemen's Saleh Agrees to Transfer Power

At LAT, "Yemen president signs pact to cede power."

After months of unrest that have brought his country to the edge of civil war, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to hand power to his vice president in a deal that leaves him immune from prosecution in the deaths of scores of protesters.

The agreement reached with the opposition and backed by the U.S. and Persian Gulf nations allows Saleh to retain the title of president for three months while early elections are scheduled. A clever politician who has ruled for 33 years, Saleh has broken similar promises before and it remains to be seen whether he will finesse a loophole to stay in charge.

The president, a former tank officer, is the epitome of the Arab strongman, playing his enemies off against one another and using force when necessary. His departure would leave his poor and battered nation facing an uncertain fate as tribes jockey for power, a secessionist movement rumbles in the south and a resurgent Al Qaeda branch battles security forces in towns and villages.

Saudi television showed Saleh signing the agreement, which was negotiated by United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar, in the presence of Saudi King Abdullah.

Saleh pledged that his ruling party would cooperate with the opposition in a new unity government, adding, "This disagreement for the last 10 months has had a big impact on Yemen in the realms of culture, development, politics, which led to a threat to national unity and destroyed what has been built in past years."