RIYADH: Foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) unanimously pledged all support to Yemen on Sunday and called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his vice president and allow the opposition to lead a transitional government.

They were meeting in Riyadh as part of intensive efforts to broker a solution to the escalating political unrest in Yemen and review the crises that have gripped other countries in the region.

A statement issued by the ministers expressed grave concerns over the situation in Yemen and invited Yemeni government officials and the opposition members to hold talks with the aim of ensuring peace, unity, security and stability in the country.

The talks at Riyadh Air Base discussed in detail the latest developments in Yemen and the region as whole.

The foreign ministers called on “the president to transfer powers,” adding that an opposition-led interim government would prepare for constitutional reforms and new elections.

The GCC called for a meeting of the Yemeni government and the opposition in Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the six-member group to meet the aspirations of the Yemeni people for change and reform. It urged all parties to stop all forms of taking revenge by making assurances and signing agreements. The new government will be entrusted with the task to ensure peace and normalcy on all fronts across the country, said a GCC official.

The GCC foreign ministers, who met behind closed doors, reaffirmed all support to Yemen. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi did not attend the meeting, said Ahmed Kabi, a spokesman of the GCC General Secretariat.

“The ministers moved forward with new proposals and with common consensus that will solve the problems and the political crisis in Yemen once and for all,” said another GCC official.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal, foreign minister, led the Saudi delegation at the meeting.

The GCC, which

comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has been pushing Saleh over the past week to hold talks with opposition parties after two months of protests against his 32-year rule.

On Friday, Saleh rejected a proposal for his exit made by Qatar. “Our power comes from the power of our great people, not from Qatar, not from anyone else. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs,” said Saleh, who has faced more than two months of mass protests calling for him to quit.

Apprehensive about any deals under the Gulf mediation plan that would delay Saleh’s departure, tens of thousands of protesters marched in the capital Sanaa on Sunday.

“ No, no to compromise,” chanted the crowd as they marched in the streets surrounding a weeks-long sit-in near Sanaa University. Youth groups leading the sit-in later called for a campaign of civil disobedience in Sanaa on Monday and Wednesday to protest against “the persistent commission of bloody massacres of peaceful protesters… by Saleh’s regime.”

Violent clashes have continued almost daily over the past week, with at least 27 people killed. Security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas to rout protesters.

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