11/23/2011, 00.00
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Saleh in Saudi Arabia to sign transfer of power deal

The Yemeni president arrived in Riyadh this morning to sign the transition plan sponsored by the Gulf countries. The agreement was reached with the opposition on November 21, after more than 10 months of bloody conflict. Saleh has already backtracked on a peace agreement at the last minute three times.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in Riyadh this morning to sign the transition of power agreement reached on November 21 with the Yemeni opposition, according to local television. The peaceful transition of power has always been hampered, until now, by Saleh’s refusal to sign the plan proposed by the Gulf states, which provides immunity in exchange for his resignation. Saleh was injured in an attack last June, and spent several months in hospital in Riyadh to recover from the consequences of the explosion (06/06/2011 Yemenis celebrate Saleh’s departure, but doubt linger over his possible return).

Saleh's unannounced visit takes place one day after the UN envoy Jamal bin Omar announced the achievement of a deal between the Yemeni president and the opposition. The Yemeni official television said that Saleh "will witness the signing of the initiative of the Gulf countries and its enforcement mechanism."

The transition plan and the agreement with Saleh will put an end to a bloody battle that has lasted ten months. Under the agreement, Saleh assigns his powers to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi within 30 days. Hadi will then form a government of national unity to bring the country to normalcy, and new elections next year. The Yemeni president, in power for 33 years, has promised several times in recent months to sign the transition plan of the Gulf countries, but has backtracked at the last minute on at least three occasions. This has provoked comments of scepticism from local newspapers until Saleh signs the document.

In recent months hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured, in clashes that have opposed Saleh supporters, tribal dissidents and army units sided with the opponents. Until the elections Saleh would remain President of Yemen, although without any real powers. A military committee, headed by Vice-President Hadi, will manage the political transition process, including the role of Saleh’s children and grandchildren in some government offices.
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