A deal aimed at ending three months of bloody unrest in Yemen is in tatters after embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign the Gulf-brokered pact, the opposition says.
Abdullatif al-Zayani, head of the Gulf Co-operation Council, which tabled the plan, quit Sanaa after Mr Saleh declined to put his name to it "as President of the republic," opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan said yesterday. "This is an essential point in the plan which we will not back down on."
The GCC deal proposes the formation of a government of national unity, Mr Saleh transferring power to his Vice-President and an end to the deadly protests that have rocked the impoverished country since late January.
Under the accord, the Yemeni strongman would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.
However, Mr Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has insisted on sticking to the constitution in any transfer of power, despite his ruling party saying it accepts the GCC plan.
Mr Zayani had gone to Sanaa to invite Mr Saleh and his opponents to sign the power transfer deal, state media said ahead of what was expected to be a signing ceremony in Riyadh today.
But he left the Yemeni capital empty-handed after the President assigned one of his advisers to sign on his behalf, sources close to both sides said.
After Mr Zayani informed members of the Common Forum - an alliance of parliamentary opposition groups - of Mr Saleh's position, they, too, refused to sign.
"We are ready to go to Riyadh, but only if Saleh signs the agreement," an official from the Common Forum said.
Mr Saleh's government has faced a popular uprising inspired by the ousting of regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
Revealing plans to become a major force in the country's post-revolution politics, the once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said over the weekend that its new political party would contest half the seats in Egypt's parliamentary elections in September.
Egypt's largest Islamic group and best-organised opposition movement during Hosni Mubarak's 30 years of autocratic rule sought to ease concerns that it was intent on bringing about an Islamist-dominated parliament.
"This is not a religious party, not a theocratic party," said its new leader, Mahmoud Mosri.
He described the platform of his Freedom and Justice party as civil but with an Islamic background that adheres to the constitution.
The popular uprising that toppled Mr Mubarak on February 11 was driven by broad swaths of Egyptian society. Secular-minded youth activists in particular watched with concern as Brotherhood supporters joined the revolution once it had momentum.
They fear it will forge alliances with other Islamic groups, such as ultra-conservative Salafists, to dominate parliament and impose sharia law, limiting freedom of expression and dubbing their opponents infidels.