Saleh to step down under mediation deal by Gulf nations

Saana: Yemen`s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh is to step down under a mediation deal worked out by the Gulf Arab states to stem a popular uprising against his 32-year tenure.

"Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni President to step down," Qatar`s Prime Minister told reporters in Doha, Al Jazeera reported.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said the GCC nations would be sending a formal proposal to Saleh and the opposition in Yemen.

Foreign Ministers of the GCC, which groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain met in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday to begin contacts with the Yemeni government and opposition to work out a deal out of the current political impasse in the key Red sea Arab nation.

Qatar`s influential newspaper Al-Arab reported that the Gulf proposal had already been submitted to Saleh as well as Yemeni opposition and called for stepping down of Saleh and passing on his executive powers to an interim national council, comprising tribal and key political figures.

Al Jazeera said the final acceptance of the plan would be announced after a meeting attended by both the sides in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

However, no date for such talks has been disclosed, Al Jazeera said.

The pan-Arab network said the interim national governing council would represent all shades of political affiliations in Yemen and its tenure would not exceed three months, after which general elections would be announced.

The Yemeni President as well as his chief detractor, the dissident General Ali Mohsen, who switched his allegiance in March welcomed the GCC proposal.

International pressure has been mounting on Saleh to step down immediately, with the Washington calling for a negotiated transition of power "as quickly as possible".

As the death toll in weeks of violence and street protest climbing to 125 dead, strongly worded statements have also come from UN, European Union and the Arab nations for a negotiated settlement at the earliest.

Meanwhile, street protests and anti-regime rallies continued in most of the major town of the country.