Yemen's much hailed transition agreement brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) has been thrown into doubt as embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to personally sign it, Gulf News reports.
Many fear Saleh's sudden face-heel turn will plunge Yemen deeper into disorder and bloodshed.
"There will likely be more violence now," analyst Fares Al Saqqaf said on Sunday. "In the end, we may have foreign intervention to end the chaos and bloodshed."
Continued unrest in Yemen could pose a risk to the stability of a region that is home to important shipping lanes at the southern mouth of the Red Sea.
Saleh's move was widely seen as a political slap in the face of efforts by Yemen's neighbours to resolve nearly three months of anti-government unrest in the impoverished Arab country.
Two senior officials said Saleh sent a formal letter to Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, general-secretary GCC, requesting a delay "to an indefinite date."
The GCC is made of wealthy and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. GCC officials were not immediately available for comment.
Immunity or Maneuvering?
Saleh initially agreed to the terms of the GCC initiative, which called on him to step down within 30 days and for a national unity government to run the country until elections are held.
The proposals also gave Saleh immunity from prosecution.
Opposition parties, though not the protesters themselves, had agreed to the deal.
Saleh's associates said the president was hoping to pressure the GCC to change the wording on the initiative that would allow him to sign the deal as the head of his ruling party - and not as president.
Yemen's opposition parties see it as an attempt by Saleh, a political survivor in power for 32 years, to stay on as president while only leaving his post as ruling party head.