(Updates with protesters demanding establishment of councils in eighth paragraph.)
June 8 (Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s opposition is urging the vice president to formally declare he has assumed the duties of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is abroad recovering from injuries, to prevent him from returning to power.
“The president is no longer president,” Mohammed al- Mutawakkil, a member of the main opposition Joint Meeting Parties, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Sana’a. “He’s out of the game.” Al-Mutawakkil said the group will give Vice President Abduraboo Mansur Hadi a few days to “resolve this issue.”
Saleh was wounded June 3 during a rocket attack on his presidential compound. He is recuperating in a Saudi military hospital, with burns on his face and 40 percent of his body according to U.S. officials, and has temporarily relinquished his powers. By pushing Hadi to declare himself as acting president, the opposition is seeking to usher in a process of transition and close the door to an extension of Saleh’s rule.
After months of anti-government protests, fighting in the Arabian Peninsula country escalated in the past two weeks when Saleh refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council plan calling for him to step down within 30 days and turn leadership over to Hadi in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It was the third time GCC-led talks had failed.
Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor and the biggest GCC country, said after a June 6 Cabinet meeting chaired by King Abdullah that the proposal is still viable, and called on Saleh to accept it. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, will also send Yemen 3 million barrels of oil to alleviate fuel shortages, Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported yesterday.
Saleh’s supporters say he is still head of state and will return soon in that capacity. The opposition says his departure means that the first part of the GCC plan has taken place.
The Joint Meeting Parties says it will form a transitional council to “represent the political leadership of Yemen’s revolution” unless Hadi acknowledges his new position. The council would seek international recognition and organize local elections in parts of the country Saleh doesn’t control, al- Mutawakkil said.
A representative of the youth protesters who began the anti-Saleh demonstrations in January called for the establishment of transitional councils and demanded that Hadi choose “whether he is with the revolution or against it.”
‘Part of Regime’
Tawakul Karaman, speaking at a news conference in Sana’a, reiterated the protesters’ opposition to the proposed GCC accord, a position they have maintained since the agreement was first made public. She said if the Joint Meeting Parties decided to participate in a unity government, as stipulated in the pact, its members would be considered “as part of the regime.”
Hundreds of protesters continued a sit-in they began yesterday in front of Hadi’s home to demand the establishment of a transitional governing council.
Hadi has not publicly indicated any shift to the opposition camp. He called on all Yemeni leaders yesterday to “join hands” and lift the country out of crisis, Saba said.
U.S. officials said yesterday that Saleh’s injuries are worse than has been reported by Yemeni officials and state media, raising doubts about his ability to return soon. The U.S. yesterday called on Yemen’s leaders to proceed with a transition of power.
“The instability and lack of security afflicting Yemen cannot be addressed until there’s some process that’s going to lead to the economic and political reforms” that demonstrators are seeking, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Meanwhile, fighters loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the influential Hashid tribal confederation, have withdrawn from five government buildings they occupied during more than a week of clashes with Saleh’s security forces, Abdulqawi al-Qaisi, al- Ahmar’s spokesman, said by telephone. He said the move was in line with a Saudi-brokered truce.
--Editors: Andrew J. Barden, Ben Holland, Karl Maier, Heather Langan.
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