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Sat 26 Mar 2011 01:30 PM

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Yemeni foreign minister sees power deal on Saturday

Abubakr al-Qirbi says deal on a transition of power in protest-hit country could be struck

Yemeni foreign minister sees power deal on Saturday
Yemen protests. (Getty Images)

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr

al-Qirbi said he hopes for a deal on a transition of power in

Yemen on Saturday, and that the time frame of a transfer of

power by President Ali Abdullah Saleh could be negotiated.

"I hope it will be today, before tomorrow," Qirbi, who is

serving as caretaker foreign minister, told Reuters, adding that

a deal would be based on an offer by the president to step down

by year-end after elections and a new constitution.

"President Saleh is willing to look at all possibilities, as

long as there are really serious commitments by the JMP

(opposition) to come and initiate a serious dialogue between

them and the ruling party."

Saleh said on Friday he was ready to cede power to stop more

bloodshed in Yemen, but only to what he called "safe hands"

after weeks of street demonstrations demanding his immediate

ouster.

Talks have been underway on two tracks to work out the

details of a deal on a peaceful transition of power in the

Arabian Peninsula state that is home to a resurgent arm of al

Qaeda, Yemeni political sources have said.

Qirbi said the country's main opposition party would be

holding talks with the ruling party on Saturday. Discussions

were centering on the time frame of a transition, among other

issues.

"I think the time period is something that can be

negotiated. It shouldn't be really an obstacle to reach an

agreement," he said.

"I think things are very close if the real intention is

really to reach an agreement. But if there are parties who want

to obstruct it then of course one cannot predict."

Saleh came under mounting pressure to resign after snipers

firing from rooftops killed 52 protesters a week ago after

Friday prayers, triggering a string of defections including that

of a top general.

Saleh has offered a string of concessions, all rejected by

opposition parties, including this week to transfer power after

the drafting of a new constitution and parliamentary and

presidential elections by the end of the year.