SANA, Yemen — A coalition of Yemeni opposition groups has proposed a plan to end the country's political crisis that would involve embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down by the end of the year, a spokesman for the group said Thursday.
Mohammed al-Sabri said the opposition sent Saleh the five-point plan, which presents an outline for a peaceful transition of power, through religious scholars on Wednesday. He said the opposition is waiting for a response.
Yemen has been rocked for weeks by daily protests — inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia — against Saleh's government. Tens of thousands protested in several cities Thursday, including the capital Sana, Aden and the central city of Bayda. Security officials said four protesters were wounded in Bayda when government supporters opened fire at their opponents.
Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years and is a key ally in the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida, has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, an offer rejected by protesters. Sabri said the opposition's plan also calls for an investigation into the deaths of demonstrators and for guarantees of Yemenis' right to protest peacefully.
The opposition's overture came three days after Saleh offered to form a unity government with his opponents — a move swiftly rejected by the opposition.
Also Thursday, the Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Rights and Democratic Freedoms said authorities have detained several police officers in the southern city of Aden because they refused to open fire on protesters.
The prime minister who was appointed by ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned Thursday, meeting a key demand of the opposition protest movement. The country's military rulers chose former Transport Minister Essam Sharaf to replace Ahmed Shafiq and asked him to form a new caretaker Cabinet to run the government throughout a transition back to civilian rule. Youth groups planned a large rally today to press other demands, including the dissolution of Mubarak's National Democratic Party and the hated State Security Agency.
Shiite opposition groups in Bahrain seeking to loosen the Sunni monarchy's grip on power said they were ready to negotiate with the Persian Gulf nation's rulers about political change after weeks of protests.
The government expressed hope that dialogue will begin soon. In the capital, Manama, Jeffrey Feltman, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, underlined Washington's "unwavering support" for the gulf kingdom, praising the king's efforts to defuse tensions, but also urging the rulers to answer "the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people."
Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit rejected opposition calls for stripping King Abdullah II of his powers and establishing a constitutional monarchy, telling lawmakers that such a move would violate the constitution. But he left the door open to some political reforms.
Muslim opposition groups have called for a constitutional monarchy that would leave the king as nothing more than a figurehead.