UN council urges Yemen’s Saleh to resign

Under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal, which Saleh has backed away from three times, he would be required to resign and hand authority to his deputy.

A boy holds a poster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh as he joins Saleh's supporters in a rally to show support in Sanaa October 21.(Reuters)

A boy holds a poster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh as he joins Saleh's supporters in a rally to show support in Sanaa October 21.(Reuters)

The U.N. Security Council on Friday condemned the Yemeni government crackdown on protesters but urged the signing of an agreement that would require the president to step down in exchange for immunity.

Council approval of the British-drafted resolution comes nine months after the protests began in the Arab world’s poorest country, inspired by “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The measure, unanimously endorsed by the council, said the 15-nation body “strongly condemns … excessive use of force against peaceful protesters,” adding that “those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable.”

But it offered no details on how accountability could be achieved if there is an immunity deal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those close to him, based on a Gulf Arab plan that would protect them from prosecution for the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and human rights abuses.

Under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal, which Saleh has backed away from three times, he would be required to resign and hand authority to his deputy. Saleh has refused to accept the deal unless he gets guarantees of immunity from the United States, Europe and the GCC, U.N. diplomats told Reuters.

The resolution called on both the government and opposition to “immediately reject the use of violence.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the measure contained some “tough messages to President Saleh and the Yemeni authorities, and also to the opposition.”

“The consensus vote reflects the very deep international concern about the deteriorating political, humanitarian, security and economic situation in Yemen,” he said.

Saleh’s govt: ‘ A balanced resolution’

The White House said in a statement that the resolution was a “united and unambiguous signal to President Saleh that he must respond to the aspirations of the Yemeni people by transferring power immediately.”

Yemen’s deputy information minister Abdu al-Janadi said the measure was “a balanced resolution that calls for all sides to stop the use of violence and calls on the opposition to renounce violence in order to achieve political gains.”

Although it does not formally endorse the GCC deal that would grant Saleh and people close to him immunity from prosecution, the resolution calls for the swift signature and implementation of a deal based on that proposal.

Western diplomats said they were pleased that Russia and China, which for months had opposed the idea of a legally binding resolution on Yemen, voted for the measure.

Earlier this month Moscow and Beijing, which are usually reluctant to condemn government violence anywhere, jointly vetoed a resolution condemning Syria’s clampdown on anti-government protesters that the United Nations says has killed at least 3,000 people since March.

Yemeni protest leader Tawakul Karman, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with two Liberian women this month, was outside the Security Council chamber at the time of vote. She said the resolution should have gone further.

“It is not strong enough,” Karman told reporters about the resolution. “He (Saleh) has to be handed over to the authorities immediately.”

Karman, however, said Yemeni protesters were not seeking for Saleh the kind of violent end that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi faced on Thursday. “We refuse any killing,” she said. “We just want a fair trial.”

Waleed al-Amari, one of the leaders of the revolutionary youth in ‘Change Square’ in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, was also disappointed.

“This resolution serves in the interests of the dominant powers and some of the states in the region, but it does not fit with the aspirations of the Yemeni youth,” he said.

Reuters

22 October 2011 Saturday