Yemen's ruler finally agrees to go – but will the regime go with him?

Saleh is fourth dictator to fall as mounting world pressure and 10 months of protests end his 33-year regime

Sanaa

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh last night defied his sceptics to sign an historic deal handing over the reins of power to his deputy after a tumultuous 10 months of popular protest to his three-decade rule.

Mr Saleh, 69, finally capitulated to international pressure to transfer power after thrice reneging on the Gulf-backed initiative at the eleventh hour.

Fireworks rang out over the Yemeni capital Sanaa at the news as many residents expressed cautious hope that it marked progress towards resolving a stalemate that has crippled the impoverished nation for months.

More than six months of uncertainty has brought the economy to a halt, while sporadic clashes between government forces and various armed opponents have threatened to push it to the brink of civil war. "It is certainly good news," said Qasim Said Mohamed,a Sanaa shop owner. "Hopefully, today marks the beginning of better days."

But even as celebrations broke out in Sanaa's Change Square, many Yemenis were sceptical over the Gulf Cooperation Council deal.

Despite its endorsement by Yemen's established opposition, the GCC initiative has met with a lukewarm reception from many of the independent activists who see themselves as the driving force behind the protest movement.

Critical of Saudi Arabia's role and fearful that politicians will brush aside their goals of political reform and an end to corruption, they dismissed suggestions that Saleh's exit meant all their goals had been achieved.

"It's nowhere near over," said Hamza al-Kamaly, a medical student and leading youth activist, noting plans for further demonstrations in the coming days.

"Our revolution is not about getting rid of one man, our goal is the end of the whole regime."

His words were in sharp contrast to the mood in the Saudi capital, Riyadh – where King Abdullah, who oversaw the signing of the deal, called it a "new page" in Yemen's history.

Yemeni opposition members were also at the ceremony and signed the accord. Mr Saleh is the fourth dictator to fall from power since start of the Arab Spring, following the ousting of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

However, he will not step down immediately and will retain his title until a successor is elected.

Meanwhile, he must transfer power to his deputy, Abdrabuh Manur Hadi, within 30 days, with presidential elections to take place within three months.

In return, he and his family will receive immunity from prosecution, a clause that will irk the thousands of street demonstrators who want him to face justice for a security crackdown that left hundreds of protesters dead.

Gulf states and Western nations have been pressing Mr Saleh to agree to a power transfer deal for months.

For the political survivor – who in 33 years navigated Yemen through civil war, separatist rebellions and tribal rivalries and once likened governing it to "dancing on the heads of snakes" – the pressure eventually told.

Since returning from Saudi Arabia two months ago, where he was treated for severe burns after a failed assassination attempt, Mr Saleh has been squeezed by a collapsing economy, has seen his forces lose control of outlying provinces and has faced the threat of international sanctions.

Yesterday he promised the power transfer would offer "real partnership" with opposition parties.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who "strongly urged" Mr Saleh to accept the deal in a phone call on Tuesday, said the organisation would "spare no efforts" to restore stability in Yemen.

Timeline: Yemen

20 January Following the demonstrations in other Arab countries, protests against President Saleh's rule erupt in Sanaa and other Yemeni towns.

22 March Saleh agrees to stand down, but says the protests are a "coup".

23 April Saleh accepts a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) plan for the transfer of power.

21 May Opposition groups sign the GCC deal after saying they received assurances Saleh would "definitely" sign on the following day.

3 June Shells hit presidential palace – Saleh is injured and travels to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

23 November Saleh travels to Saudi Arabia and finally signs the GCC plan.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect