Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has stalled a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-led deal, which could see his 32-year reign as head of state come to an end within a month.

Saleh met with Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani, the GCC secretary general, on 30 April, and had been expected to sign an agreement to cede power on the same day. However, he told al-Zayyani that he would only ratify the agreement in his capacity as head of the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC), not as president of the republic, sources close to the government tell MEED.

Analysts see the move as an attempt to stall the GCC transition initiative, either to force more concessions from the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) coalition or to provoke increased violence to legitimise a crackdown on protesters and weaken the JMP’s bargaining power.

“The GCC can’t act without his unequivocal support as president,” says Abdulghani al-Iryani, an independent Sanaa-based political analyst with close ties to the government. “It looks like he is playing a game until it triggers violent conflict.”

Under the GCC-brokered deal, Saleh would step down within 30 days of the agreement being signed by the president, GPC and JMP. The GCC general secretary plans to hold talks in Riyadh with both parties on 1 and 2 May to finalise the details.

Under the plan, once Saleh has left office, vice-president Abdulrab al-Hadi will head up a caretaker unity government, made up of a 50:50 split of members of the GPC and the JMP, for a further 60 days, after which legislative and presidential elections would be held.