Envoys of U.S., U.K. and others under siege

In a desperate attempt to prevent the signing of an accord which would have led to the exit in one month of Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, gunmen loyal to the President have in Sana'a besieged the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), entrapping inside, the envoys of the United States, Britain, the European Union and four Gulf countries.

CNN quoting the U.S. Ambassador in Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, said the Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE were also under siege inside the embassy.

Mr. Saleh was scheduled to sign an accord on Sunday that was already inked a day earlier by the opposition.  On Saturday, the opposition signed an agreement drafted by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which bars prosecution of the Yemeni President and his family, but also cements Mr. Saleh's departure from office in 30 days. “We signed the initiative in the presence of envoys from the United States, Britain, the European Union and the GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani,” an unnamed opposition leader was quoted as saying.

But hours before Mr. Saleh was to ink the accord, gunmen pledging loyalty to the President surrounded the UAE embassy where the envoys were awaiting word from the Yemeni authorities, before proceeding for the signing ceremony at the presidential palace.

Secretary General of the GCC Abdullatif al-Zayani is also inside the UAE embassy, Al Arabiya television station is reporting.

CNN quoted Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Khalifa as saying the situation in the Yemeni capital was “volatile.” He said he was in touch with the Mr. Zayani. Witnesses say thousands supporting Mr. Saleh have blocked the road leading to a building where the President had been meeting some of his officials.

They  said Mr. Saleh would not be allowed to leave the compound to sign the proposed deal. Signalling growing anarchy in Sana'a, tribal leaders have mobilised gunmen, in anticipation of violence.

National unity

On Saturday, Mr. Saleh had stressed that he would be signing the deal, not out of conviction, but for preserving national unity. “The initiative is in fact purely a coup operation but we will deal positively with it for the sake of the motherland,” he said at a military parade ahead of celebrations marking the twenty-first anniversary of Yemen's unification. Mr. Saleh, who had earlier been working closely with the United States to counter Islamic extremism, warned that his exit would lead to a surge in al-Qaeda activity.

More In: International | News