Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on April 10, 2011.
The member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) have presented a united front in calling on embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.During a Sunday meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, foreign ministers from the [P]GCC urged the long-ruling Yemeni president to hand over power to his deputy to pave the way for power transition in the Middle Eastern country, Reuters reported.
The appeal comes as Yemeni protesters continue to demand an end to the decades-long rule of Saleh, who has refused to step down despite the massive popular protests since mid-February.
The [P]GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — also called for the formation of a coalition government led by the opposition and the drafting of a new constitution in troubled Yemen.
“The formation of a national unity government under the leadership of the opposition which has the right to form committees … to draw up a constitution and hold elections” is a way out of the current political crisis in Yemen, the Persian Gulf Arab states said.
On Friday, the Yemeni ruler declined an invitation by the six-nation [P]GCC to a mediation session in Saudi Arabia with the Yemeni opposition to end the months-long unrest in the Middle Eastern country.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in different cities across Yemen on Sunday despite the government’s recent brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The Sunday rallies were held in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, the western city of Hudaydah along with Taiz and Ibb, both in the southwest part of the country.
More than 40 protesters were wounded by live gunfire in clashes in Taiz between security forces and demonstrators Sunday, AFP reported. In Sana’a, security forces shot and wounded 30 people on Saturday, while 80 others suffered injuries from beatings with batons, medics said.
The protesters are calling for corruption and unemployment in the country to be tackled and demanding Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
Some 40 percent of the Yemeni population lives on $2 a day or less and one third of Yemenis face food shortages.
The protests have been met with crackdowns by riot police or supporters of President Saleh who are armed with knives and batons.