Jan. 21 - The Yemeni parliament approves a landmark deal granting embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution in the deaths of hundreds of protesters, paving the way for his exit. Andrew Raven reports.
The ayes have it. After months of wrangling, Yemen's parliament approves a landmark deal granting embattled president Ali Abullah Saleh immunity from prosecution. The vote paves the way for Saleh, who has lead the deeply impoverished country for 33 years, to resign. It comes almost a year into a violent uprising against his rule that has plunged the country in chaos. The deal ensures Saleh cannot be tried for the deaths of hundreds of protesters killed in clashes with government security forces. Lawmakers say now the country can start to rebuild. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) YEMENI PRIME MINISTER MOHAMED BASENDWAH "I call on all of you to exert your best efforts in order to get Yemen out of this situation. The whole country is at risk of being divided and a breakdown of security - we don't want to be like Afghanistan or Somalia." (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LAWMAKER, AHMED SOFAN "We believe this is an excellent move, and it is important that politicians move forward and start dealing with the security and economic issues facing the country and the great challenge the expansion of Al Qaeda in different regions of Yemen presents." The 69-year-old Saleh has ruled Yemen since 1978. The immunity deal will cover his entire time in office, but not automatically extend to his aides, which was a key demand of the opposition. Meanwhile, elections for a new president - likely to be Saleh's deputy - are set for next month. Andrew Raven, Reuters