Yemen: Political talks open as Saleh recovers in Riyadh

Yemen's ruling party has opened talks with the country's main opposition coalition following the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.

Protesters have called on the acting president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to form a presidential council to seek a solution to the crisis in country.

Violence has erupted recently following months of protest against Mr Saleh.

He was severely wounded in an attack on his compound on Friday.

Official sources told the BBC the talks in Sanaa between the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and the opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Party (JMP) are the first of its kind.

The JMP includes the main Islamist Islah party, socialists, Nasserists and some newer independent parties.

The talks aim to find ways to reach a political solution, but details of the expected duration or specific areas of negotiation remain unclear, says the BBC's Lina Sinjab in Sanaa.

The move comes a day after thousands of government supporters held a rally outside the residence of the acting leader, demanding the formation of a transitional council to create a new government.
Injured leaderMeanwhile, sources close to the president say Mr Saleh may need months to recover from the burns that reportedly cover 40% of his body.

The 69-year-old was flown to the Saudi capital Riyadh for medical treatment, following a rocket attack on his presidential palace on Friday, which killed seven people and wounded senior officials in what officials said was an assassination attempt.

Aides accompanying Mr Saleh to Riyadh say he is recovering well and is in good spirits, but unable to move about. The government had earlier announced he would return within a week.

On the streets of Sanaa, life is returning to normal, our correspondent says, as a ceasefire was holding between government forces loyal to Mr Saleh and tribesman of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar of the powerful Hashid tribe.

Over 200 people were killed and thousands forced to flee in two weeks of fighting.

Mr Saleh, who has ruled since 1978, has refused to leave office despite protests and a tribal uprising which has brought the country to the brink of civil war and resulted in more than 350 deaths.

Despite repeated promises to do so, he has refused to accept a transition plan brokered by the Saudi-led Gulf Co-Operation Council.

US officials are keen for Mr Saleh not to return to Yemen. Along with other Western powers, it fears the crisis enveloping the country might make it easier for the powerful Yemen-based wing of al-Qaeda to strengthen.

On Tuesday, the army said it had killed dozens of Islamist militants including a local al-Qaeda leader in the southern town of Zinjibar, capital of the flashpoint Abyan province.

A local official said 15 soldiers had been killed in the battles for control of the town seized by militants some 10 days ago

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