Yemen's Saleh Drops Pledge to Step Down

Pro-government protesters trap diplomats in embassy
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 23, 2011 7:47 AM CDT
A Yemeni army helicopter emerges from the dust as it airlifts U.S. and other ambassadors out of a besieged embassy in Sanaa, Yemen.   (AP Photo/APTN)
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(Newser) – Yemen’s president has reneged on a promise to step down in a deal arranged by Gulf Arab countries, prompting concerns about the feasibility of a peaceful transition of power in Sanaa. After pro-government demonstrators barred access to and from the UAE embassy yesterday, the Gulf Cooperation Council, which had brokered the deal with antigovernment protesters, put the push for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s withdrawal on hold today, "citing a lack of appropriate circumstances for agreement," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The pro-Saleh demonstrators trapped top diplomats in the UAE embassy for hours yesterday; many were armed with assault rifles, said onlookers. Helicopters finally rescued the diplomats and took them to the presidential palace, where Saleh rejected the deal that would have provided him immunity from prosecution as he stepped down. He refused to sign it without opposition leaders present, notes the Los Angeles Times. “If they don't comply, they are dragging us to a civil war, and they will have to hold responsibility for the bloodshed,” he said.

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