Saudi and allies focus on Yemen’s Saleh exit

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are trying to broker a deal to have Yemen’s president step down and hand over power, possibly to an interim council of tribal and political leaders, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Ali Abdullah Saleh’s at times bloody response to protests, inspired by those in Egypt and Tunisia, against his 32-year rule has tried the patience of his U.S. and Saudi backers.

A variety of official sources say they are now ready to push aside a long-time ally against the Yemen-based wing of al Qaeda to avoid a chaotic collapse of the poorest Arab state.

“The proposal is to have a governing council grouping all the various political parties and tribes for a period that would not exceed three months,” one Gulf official told Reuters.

The plan is to be presented to Saleh and his opponents at talks to take place soon in Saudi Arabia. “The council will set the way for elections,” the Gulf official added, echoing other sources in the region and beyond.

“We hope that we will strike a deal,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters on the sidelines of a Business and Investment in Qatar Forum in New York.

“We (Gulf states) have been meeting for the last few days in Riyadh and we’re sending a proposal for him and the opposition and we hope a meeting will be held between his team and the opposition to try to find a way out of this problem,” he said.

Ali Mohsen, the prominent general who turned against Saleh last month, welcomed the proposed Gulf-sponsored transition talks on “the basis of achieving the demands of the peaceful youth revolution,” a source close to him said on Wednesday.