PARIS (Reuters) - World powers sought to revive a faltering Gulf-brokered plan on Friday to ease Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power after months of protests which he has met with violence and defiance.
Qatar, which has mediated in several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, withdrew from the plan on Thursday, citing “the continued escalation and intensity of confrontations.
The accord has been teetering on the brink for weeks as Saleh, a shrewd political survivor in power for 33 years, refused to sign the plan. GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani is due to visit Sanaa on Saturday to discuss it.
Yemeni forces fired machineguns to halt a protest against Saleh on Thursday, wounding dozens in the southern city of Taiz and two protesters were killed in another southern city.
The U.S. State Department condemned the violence.
“We call on the parties to sign and implement the terms of the agreement now to ensure an orderly, peaceful transition of power,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
“This transition must begin immediately in order for the Yemeni people to realize their aspirations for a brighter and more prosperous future,” he said in a statement.
Washington and Gulf Arab states, especially neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, are worried that more chaos could give ample room for al Qaeda’s aggressive Yemen-based wing to operate more freely, and have been eager to implement the Gulf-brokered deal.
France, which has been at the forefront of diplomatic action as violence escalated in Libya and Syria, joined the United States in its calls for Saleh to accept the transition plan.
Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said it was the best way to get a peaceful solution in the crisis that would ensure the stability and unity of the country.
“We reiterate our hope that this agreement can now be signed as soon as possible and call the President of the Republic of Yemen and all Yemeni parties to implement it without delaying the transition,” he said.
This week’s bloodshed may fuel public rage later on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer and traditionally the largest day of rallies in the three-month-old revolt against Saleh.
German Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer repression was not the answer to the political vacuum and the country’s deepening problems, adding that those responsible had to be held to account.
“President Saleh is requested, with regard to the mediation offer by the Gulf Cooperation Council, to contribute to an orderly political transition without delay,” he said in a statement. “I welcome the fact that the European Union has put its support clearly behind this offer.
Reporting by John Irish in Paris and Brian Rohan in Berlin; editing by Philippa Fletcher