- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A coalition of Yemeni opposition groups has proposed a plan to end the country’s political crisis that would involve embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down by the end of the year, a spokesman for the group said Thursday.

Mohammed al-Sabri said the opposition sent Mr. Saleh the five-point plan, which presents an outline for a peaceful transition of power, through religious scholars on Wednesday. He said the opposition is waiting for a response.

Yemen has been rocked for weeks by daily protests — inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia — against Mr. Saleh’s government. Tens of thousands protested in several cities Thursday, including the capital, Sanaa; Aden; and the central city of Bayda. Security officials said four protesters were wounded in Bayda when government supporters opened fire at their opponents.

Mr. Saleh, a key ally in the U.S. campaign against the al Qaeda terror network, has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, an offer rejected by protesters.

The opposition plan does not detail how Mr. Saleh, who has been in power 32 years, would hand over power, but Mr. al-Sabri said the opposition expects the president to come forward with his own proposal.

“The opposition’s vision is that Saleh moves according to a roadmap that begins with a key solution or a program for his departure,” Mr. al-Sabri said. He added that the program should “be clear and frank and should not extend beyond the end of the current year.”

Mr. al-Sabri said the opposition’s plan also calls for an investigation into the deaths of demonstrators and for guarantees of Yemenis’ right to protest peacefully.

The opposition’s overture came three days after Mr. Saleh offered to form a unity government with his opponents — a move swiftly rejected by the opposition.

Mr. Saleh told religious leaders Monday that leaving office can’t be just his decision, but needs also to be that of the people.

Also Thursday, a Yemeni human rights group said authorities have detained several police officers in the southern city of Aden because they refused to open fire on protesters. The Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Rights and Democratic Freedoms quoted the families of the police officers as saying they were told they have been transferred to Sanaa.

Students who have been gathering for days at Sanaa University said in a statement Thursday that their protest will “not stop until the regime, and its corrupt symbols, fall.”

They urged the army and security forces not to join any attempts to put down the “revolution.”




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