Yemeni Transition Talks Stall

Eleventh hour talks Yemeni President Saleh's departure broke down as the two sides stalemate on terms. US Embassy: "No comment."

Gabe Kahn., | updated: 07:42

Yemen Protests (Sanaa)
Yemen Protests (Sanaa)

Last minute talks on the fate of Yemen's political future stalled Saturday, the Associated Press reports.

Late Friday afternoon, as Sanaa braced for renewed mass protests following the previous Friday's bloody confrontation between Yemeni security forces and anti-government demonstrators, it was reported that President Ali Abdullah Saleh was in serious negotiations of the timing and conditions for the end of his rule.

Saleh's departure has been incrementally approaching since protests began on January 28 of this year. Though he initially threatened "blood civil war," Saleh reversed course and almost immediately began offering a string of concessions. On February 22, he announced he would not stand for re-election in 2013; on March 11 he offered to start the process of constitutional reforms and elections for a new president and parliament; and on March 20, he offered to step down by year's end.

In each case opposition leaders said his offer of concessions was either "too little" or "too late."

According to Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi late Friday evening, the deal will be predicated on Saleh agreeing to step down by the end of the year. No reason for opposition leaders accepting Saleh's offer, which they previously rejected, was given.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen refused to comment on the talks. 

Yemen, which has become a base for a small but resurgent arm of al-Qaeda, has been in turmoil since January when the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions sparked popular demonstrations demanding an end end Saleh's 32-year authoritarian rule.

Saleh, who oversaw the unification of north and south Yemen in 1990 and was victorious in a hard-fought civil war in 1994, told tribes in Sanaa on Friday he would "work to avoid bloodshed using all possible means". But after seven weeks of protests, he was ready tp relinquish power to "safe hands" after seven weeks of street demonstrations demanding his departure, he told them.

The transition discussions, which came on the heels of General Ali Mohsen rolling his tanks into Sanaa to protect anti-government protesters, focused on the time frame of a handover, among other issues. But as of Saturday afternoon, the talks, which were attended by the US ambassador, had deadlocked with both sides refusing to give ground.

President Saleh told the al-Arabiya television network, "Yemen is a ticking bomb and if the political system collapses and there's no constructive dialogue there will be a long civil war that will be difficult to end."

Vice President Ahmed al-Sufi told the Associated Press the snag centered on the oppositions demands Saleh resign immediately and be banned from holding political office in the future. "These demands are impossible to accept," al-Sufi said. "What is clear is that the president wants an honorable transfer of power according to the constitution and through elections."

Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri confirmed the meeting's details and accused Saleh of stalling.

Saleh's attempts a dialogue come after protests turned bloody the previous Friday when snipers loyal to Saleh fired into an anti-government crowd, killing 52 people. That act led to a string of defections, including key military commanders including General Ali Mohsen, as well as ambassadors, provincial governors and tribal leaders, some from his own tribe, that left Saleh in an increasingly tenuous position.