Saudi Arabia offers Yemeni leader immunity
GULF states led by Saudi Arabia are trying to broker a deal for their ally, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, to quit in the face of continuing unrest and killings in major cities in the region.
The Gulf Co-operation Council, which is made up of the oil-rich countries of the Saudi peninsula, has won support from Yemen's opposition for a proposal that Mr Saleh would step down in favour of a transitional ruling council.
Details are supposed to be thrashed out at a meeting in Riyadh, although Mr Saleh has sent conflicting signals as to whether he will take part.
He has said he will leave office next year but resisted calls to step down immediately, and has retained enough support from loyalists to hang on in the face of repeated protests.
At least 120 people have been shot dead as his supporters attempt to quell the uprising.
The Saudi-led proposal is understood to offer him and his family immunity from prosecution, but it is not clear that will be acceptable to the political opposition or the coalition of youth movements that have led the protests.
Mr Saleh has ruled for more than 32 years, uniting the country's northern and southern halves and using modest oil revenues to buy support from its many tribal groupings.
But the protests have complicated Mr Saleh's struggles with separatists in the south, a Shia uprising in the north, and a growing menace from al-Qa'ida cells in the centre and east.
Saudi Arabia has been a long-term backer of Mr Saleh. But Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Centre, said King Abdullah realised it was a question of "when, not if" he had to step down.
Riyadh was now concerned about stability during a transition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)