Opposition leaders in Yemen met Wednesday to elect a "national council" to take power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in Riyadh for 10 weeks.

Saleh is recovering from serious injuries suffered in a June assassination attempt and has vowed to return to Yemen in the near future.

"The national council will lead the forces of the revolution, determined to stand strong until Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure," key opposition leader Soltan Al Atwani told reporters.

The opposition hopes to unite the parties of the Common Forum, which includes the influential Islamist Al Islah (reform) party, with the young protesters at the forefront of anti-regime protests since January.

The council would also include representatives of civil society, members of the secessionist Southern Movement, and the northern Shiite Huthi rebels, as well as independent activists.

'Death Certificate'

“In forming this council, the opposition would sign the death certificate of the Gulf proposal" for a power transfer, warned Tariq Al Shami, a spokesman of Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC.

"With this, they prove they are not for a peaceful solution but are trying to overthrow the constitutional legitimacy," he told AFP.

But Saleh has agreed to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council three times and then backed out -- the last time in May -- leading opposition leaders to believe the deal is already stillborn.

The GCC deal stipulates Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament 30 days after passing power to his vice president, in return from immunity from prosecution.

The opposition would form a national unity government, in it and the GPC would be equally represented, and presidential elections would follow two months later.


"Our people are ready to make more sacrifices to impose their will, like the Tunisian and Egyptian people," Leading opposition figure Mohammed Salem Bassandaoua said in reference to protesters who drove their longtime leaders from power earlier this year.

"There is no sufficient pressure on the regime," said Bassandaoua, a former Yemeni foreign minister.

The meeting was held in a hall at Sana'a University amid tight security provided by the army's First Armored Division, led by General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, who defected to the opposition in March.

The regime has threatened to shell the square outside the university where anti-Saleh protesters have camped since February if the council is formed, according to activists there.

Ahmar's troops are deployed to protect the protesters, of whom 200 people have been killed nationwide in clashes with security forces and Saleh supporters since the end of January.