Gulf Arab states trying to mediate a transition of power in Yemen will send the UAE foreign minister to Sanaa within days, a Yemeni official said, but President Ali Abdullah Saleh again refused to quit quickly.
Bloodshed continued with at least four more deaths of anti-government protesters reported.
Saleh voiced accused opponents of instigating “conspiracies or coups” and said he would not accept either, his latest iteration of defiance in the face of massive public protests.
Yemen’s Western and Gulf Arab allies have sought in vain so far to negotiate an orderly transition of power from Saleh, but opposition patience has been fading with more violence flaring.
“Abdullah bin Zayed is coming to Sanaa in the coming days to convey the Gulf view after listening to the points of view of the government and the opposition,” a government official told Reuters.
Yemen’s allies, which long backed Saleh as a bulwark against an active Yemen-based al Qaeda arm, fear escalating clashes would cause chaos that could benefit the global militant group. Saleh, whose term ends in 2013, has warned of civil war and the break-up of the Arabian Peninsula country if he is forced out.
Gulf and European foreign ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi said they were deeply concerned over the situation in Yemen and urged the sides to reach a deal through dialogue.
“The current impasse between the various parties might decline quickly into more serious confrontation and conflict,” the ministers said in a statement.
Tension has mounted as protesters irked by the slow pace of progress test the limits of security forces by marching outside traditional protest zones and torching tyres in the streets.
“Those who want power or to gain the seat of power should do it by heading to the ballot box,” Saleh, who has ruled impoverished Yemen for 32 years, was quoted as saying by the Yemeni state news agency. “Change and departure will be through voting under the legal framework of the constitution.”
He has vowed not to seek re-election when his term ends in 2013 and has said he is willing to transfer power to “safe hands,” but protesters are demanding he leave now.
Gulf states, who had been holding internal consultations on the crisis, said they had now heard the views of both Yemen’s opposition and the government after separate talks.
“Now in the GCC we’re doing internal consultations to discuss the next step and over the next hours you will hear about the next step by the Gulf Cooperation Council states,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told a news conference in Abu Dhabi, without giving details.
In the latest violence, a gunman on a motorcycle fired on an anti-government protest camp in the Red Sea town of Hudeida, killing a man guarding the protest, witnesses said.
“The youth were doing the dawn prayer and the guards were inspecting the outskirts of the square when a motorcycle passed by and opened fire on them,” said guard Abdel-Hafez Mohammed.
Doctors said three more protesters died overnight from wounds suffered in clashes in the capital Sanaa, bringing to six the number of people killed by police who shot at demonstrators in Sanaa and the industrial city of Taiz on Tuesday.
More than 123 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces since activists took to the streets in January.
In Sanaa, a protester march that passed several ministries include the defence ministry, a bold move, ended peacefully.
A march in Hudaida also ended without incident, but a high school student shot on Tuesday when walking near where skirmishes were taking place died of her injuries, doctors said.
In the southern port city of Aden, gunmen shot dead a soldier at a protest that drew hundreds of people.
A security source said the soldier was killed in clashes with protesters, but activists said the gunmen were not linked with their movement and insisted the demonstration was peaceful. Sporadic gunfire was reported throughout the city all day.
Western countries and Arab neighbours fear a prolonged standoff could cause clashes between rival military units in Sanaa and elsewhere in the mountainous country where Saleh has already lost control of several provinces.