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Yemeni protesters offer plan for power transfer

SANA, Yemen — Yemen's political opposition on Saturday presented an outline of how it hopes to see power change hands after nearly two months of protests that have weakened the longtime president but failed to drive him from office.

Mohammed al-Sabri, a spokesman for Yemen's opposition parties, said they wanted a smooth transition. They presented a plan that asked President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down and hand over power to his vice president.

Al-Sabri said the vice president could oversee a national dialogue that would advise on reforming the constitution and planning for elections. Similar to Egypt, al-Sabri said Yemen should hold a referendum on a new constitution before any voting.

"We want to achieve political freedom and to build a modern country that is federalized and has parliamentary rule," said the statement sent by al-Sabri to the Associated Press.

The plan also called for leaders of the security apparatuses to step down and for investigations of those responsible for the killing and wounding of protesters. Security forces have killed 92 protesters since the unrest began on Feb. 12, according to the Shiqayiq Forum for Human Rights.

There was no immediate comment from Saleh's spokespeople.

Reflecting the standoff between Saleh's government and the protesters, both sides held demonstrations Saturday in the capital, Sana.

In another demonstration, tens of thousands of antigovernment protesters hurled stones at riot police backed by tanks in the southern province of Aden.

Daily protests demanding Saleh's ouster have failed to bring an end to his 32-year rule over Yemen, a corner of the Arabian peninsula beset by poverty, conflict and a long list of other woes.

Yemen's unrest is of great concern to the United States, in particular, because the country is home to al-Qaida's most active franchise. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has been behind several nearly successful plots to attack international targets, including sending bombs hidden in printer cartridges onto cargo planes and getting a would-be suicide bomber onto a Detroit-bound flight in December 2009.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said a week ago that the fall of Saleh's regime could pose a "real problem" for America.

Yemeni protesters offer plan for power transfer 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 8:50pm]
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