- Associated Press - Sunday, May 1, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The signing ceremony of a deal to end Yemen’s political crisis was postponed indefinitely after the Yemeni president refused to sign it personally, a Gulf official said on Sunday, signaling the possible collapse of the agreement.

Ahmed Khalifa al-Kaabi, a media official for the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is sponsoring the agreement, told the Associated Press that foreign ministers from the group’s six member-states would meet in Riyadh later on Sunday to find a way to end the Yemeni crisis, which risks destabilizing the whole Arabian Peninsula.

The GCC, an association of Yemen’s oil-rich neighbors, comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.

Yemen’s opposition parties, which initially agreed to the deal, said they would not sign it if President Ali Abdullah Saleh did not sign it personally as well.

For their part, the representatives of the hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who have been staging anti-Saleh demonstrations since early February have rejected the deal in its entirety, demanding that Mr. Saleh immediately step down and face trial.

The ceremony was expected to be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday or Monday.

Yemen has been wracked by massive anti-government protests since mid-February, with calls for Mr. Saleh to step down after 32 years in power. At least 140 people have died in the past few months as security forces have violently dispersed the protests.

The GCC offered a deal to resolve the crisis, with Mr. Saleh to step down after 30 days and the creation of a national unity government between the ruling party and the opposition.

The fact that Mr. al-Kaabi specifically cited Mr. Saleh’s refusal personally to sign the deal indicated that the GCC blamed him for the deadlock in the efforts to end the crisis in Yemen.

Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the GCC secretary-general, was in Yemen to finalize a date for the signing ceremony. Government officials said Mr. Saleh told Mr. al-Zayani on Saturday that he would ratify the deal after it is signed by Abdul-Karim al-Iryani, his close aide and senior ruling party official.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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