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Yemen leader offered step-down deal

The head of a grouping of Gulf Arab nations has presented a new proposal to Yemen's embattled president to resolve the country's crisis, calling on him to hand over power to a successor of his choice and leave within a month, according to a senior government official.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's leader of 32 years, has been clinging to power in the face of two months of massive street protests against his rule.

The proposal was a second attempt to mediate the crisis by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which in its previous effort called for Saleh to step down but did not propose a timetable.

But Saleh's opponents said the month-long transition was too long, demanding he step down immediately.

Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the GCC's secretary general, outlined the proposal to Saleh in a meeting in Sanaa.

The unnamed Yemeni official said the proposals also provided for a national unity government led by the opposition and comprising Saleh's ruling party.

Presidential elections would be held within 60 days after the interim president takes office, said the official.

Saleh's spokesman Ahmed al-Sufi said the president was dealing "positively" with the new proposals. He did not elaborate, but the opposition rejected them out of hand, saying they wanted the president to leave immediately and unconditionally.

An opposition statement called on Yemen's "friends and brethren" - referring to GCC members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait - to "adopt a clear position on the genocide committed by Saleh's regime against peaceful protesters".

Saleh has over the past two months used violence to try to quell the unrest, with his security forces killing nearly 130 protesters so far. He has also offered concessions, including a pledge not to run again for president or allow his son to succeed him, but to no avail.

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