U.S. calls for political deal to avert bloodshed in Yemen
Azerbaijan , Baku, Sept. 21 / Trend A. Isgandarov /
Bursts of shelling threatened a fragile new truce in Yemen's capital Sana'a late on Tuesday as politicians scrambled to end the bloodiest fighting in eight months of anti-government protests and Washington called for a political solution to avert further bloodshed, Al Arabiya reported.
Both government forces and troops loyal to General Ali Mohsen, who defected to pro-democracy protesters in March, vowed to stand by a ceasefire ordered by Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
But witnesses said two mortars hit the end of a street on Tuesday evening where thousands of protesters were camping out to demand an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule,.
"The whole place shook with the explosion and clouds of dust shot up in the air when the second mortar hit," protester Badr Ali said.
The death toll has risen to around 76 since Sunday, when protesters' frustration boiled over at Saleh's refusal to accept a mediated handover plan. Saleh has been in Saudi Arabia since June, where he had surgery on injuries that he suffered in an assassination attempt.
The fighting between state troops and defected soldiers began after tens of thousands of protesters marched on Sunday close to a part of Sana'a controlled by government forces.
World powers fear that chaos in Yemen, home to al-Qaeda's most powerful regional branch and adjoining the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, could imperil oil shipping lanes and raise the risk of militant strikes on Western targets.
"The United States continues to support the Yemeni people's aspirations for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their aspirations for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security," Nuland said in a statement AFP reported,.
"A political solution is the best way to avoid further bloodshed," she said while attending meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
"We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached that leads to the expeditious signing of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) political transition initiative," Nuland said.
The GCC plan, proposed last spring, calls on Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down as president and hand over all constitutional authorities to the vice president.
In return, Saleh would receive amnesty from prosecution for himself and his family. But Saleh has so far failed to sign the deal.
Opposition and government sources said talks were continuing over the Gulf-backed transition plan, from which Saleh has backed out three times.
Since February, millions of Yemenis have been demanding the ouster of Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years. Yemeni security forces use their weapons to disperse the anti-government actions. According to Western media, for two months the popular unrests in the country killed several hundreds people.
Despite months of protests, Saleh, who has been receiving treatment in neighbouring Saudi Arabia for the past three months for blast wounds he sustained in a bombing at the presidential palace, has so far refused to hand power to his deputy.