A Saudi and Gulf Arab plan for Yemen,'s president to step down and end a political crisis will guarantee the veteran leader and his family immunity from prosecution, an opposition source said on Thursday.
The US and Gulf Arab countries now appear ready to push aside a long-time ally against al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing to avoid a chaotic collapse of the Arab state. Saleh's at times violent response over the past two months to mass protests against his 32-year rule, has tried the patience of Washington and Riyadh, both of which have been the target of attempted attacks by al Qaeda's Yemeni branch.
The Gulf proposal for talks in Riyadh was presented to Saleh and a coalition of opposition parties this week. Saleh welcomed it, and Gulf sources said it envisaged handing power to an interim council of tribal and political leaders who would help appoint a national unity government ahead of elections.
An opposition source said the proposal would give Saleh and his family, whose control over key posts has long irked Yemenis, immunity from prosecution for corruption. The proposal would also see Saleh hand over power to a vice-president, the source said. Current incumbent Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has said he does not want such a role, which suggests Saleh would appoint a new figure.
Talks in recent weeks, which had included the US ambassador in Sanaa, had become bogged down over Saleh's demand for assurances that he and members of his family would not face prosecution - a demand of the street activists, who may object to any deal the Gulf Arabs or the opposition come up with.