Yemen sets presidential election date

Yemen sets presidential election date

Yemen's Vice President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi announced Saturday that a presidential election would be held on February 21, dpa reported.

The state news agency said Hadi had issued a decree calling for the early vote under powers transferred to him by outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The elections are to be held under the supervision of an independent electoral commission, the agency quoted the decree as saying.

On Wednesday, Saleh and leaders from the opposition Joint Meeting Parties signed a power transfer deal in a bid to end 10 months of bloody violence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

Under the terms of the deal, Saleh is to transfer power to Hadi within 30 days, followed 90 days later by a presidential election.

Meanwhile, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi denied reports that Saleh is to leave the country once he cedes power under the deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

"Saleh will not leave. He will remain a Yemeni national having the right to stay in the country," al-Qirbi was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat on Saturday.

The minister also said he expected Saleh to continue playing a political role in the country through the ruling party. The GCC deal guarantees that Saleh, his family and close aides will not be prosecuted after the president steps down.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Saleh would head to New York to receive medical treatment after signing the deal.

Unconfirmed media reports have said that Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 33 years, will settle down in an Arab Gulf country after his return from the United States.

"We are proud that we have extricated the country from its crisis with solutions different from what happened in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya," said al-Qirbi, referring to three Arab countries whose presidents were deposed in popular uprisings.

However, thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets since Wednesday, protesting the decision to grant Saleh immunity from prosecution.

They accuse the president of ordering a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that has left hundreds dead since February.

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