- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The head of a coalition of Gulf countries seeking to broker an end to Yemen‘s political crisis gave up on Wednesday and left the country, opposition and government leaders said.

Yemen is reeling from three months of massive street protests demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after more than three decades in power.

The Gulf Cooperation Council sought to mediate a deal for Mr. Saleh to leave power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Mr. Saleh snubbed the deal last month, prompting a visit from the coalition’s head, Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani, to try to break the impasse.

But Mr. al-Zayyani, who is from Bahrain, ended his five-day visit Wednesday without closing the deal, leaving each side blaming the other for its failure.

In Washington, the White House said John Brennan, who is an assistant to President Obama, had called Mr. Saleh on Wednesday, urging him to accept the GCC-brokered plan. He called it “the best path forward for Yemen to become a more secure, unified and prosperous nation.”

The statement represents a change in the U.S. stance toward Mr. Saleh, who was considered an ally in fighting al Qaeda’s active Yemeni branch.

Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri said Mr. al-Zayyani told the opposition he was leaving because he couldn’t get Mr. Saleh to sign.

“He said that since they were not able to reach an agreement, he was leaving Sanaa and would not come back,” Mr. al-Sabri said.

Mr. al-Sabri said Mr. Saleh repeatedly tried to amend the deal by adding conditions that the opposition rejected.

Ruling party official Yasser al-Yemani confirmed Mr. al-Zayyani’s departure, adding that Mr. Saleh refused to sign until the sit-ins across the country ended.

Saleh will not leave power as long as the security situation remains unstable,” he said.

The mass protests have posed an unprecedented challenge to Mr. Saleh’s rule. Several top military commanders and ruling party officials have defected to the opposition, while a crackdown by government forces reportedly has killed more than 150 people.

Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor, faced crises even before the protests. It is plagued with widespread corruption, a weak central government, a Shiite rebellion in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and an active branch of al Qaeda in its weakly governed provinces.

The GCC nations behind the mediation effort were Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.