EXCLUSIVE: Is Yemen’s Saleh Set to Step Down?

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Update: TIME quoted a government source claiming President Saleh had agreed to a five-point proposal circulated by the opposition. That proposal included his stepping down within nine months. However, the source later said that the proposals that the regime looked favorably on were not the same as those circulated earlier in the day.

The following comes from TIME contributor Oliver Holmes in Yemen:

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has reached an agreement to step down after opposition offered a 5-point plan earlier on Wednesday in which it demanded the president leave office within the next nine months.

“The leadership has reached an initial agreement on the five points, an official statement is due tomorrow,” a government official said. Another government official said,“ details are being worked out.”

The five-point plan stated the president must leave power by the end of this year and all political parties in Yemen would confer on the best means to transfer power democratically. It is not clear if the offer has changed after discussions today.

The plan also stated that Yemenis should be allowed to protest peacefully without fear of violence, a committee should be formed to investigate attacks against protesters, and that the families of all protesters killed or injured should be compensated for by the State. Twenty-seven demonstrators have died since protests started, according to London-based Amnesty International. A government official told TIME earlier that “mediators met with members of both the ruling and opposition parties” today and talks were “productive.”

Saleh has ruled in Sana’a for over three decades, a reign defined, in part, by his knack at holding on to power. Like other autocrats in trouble in the Arab world, Saleh’s regime is a key Washington ally in its fight against Al Qaeda. For more background, read Holmes’s most recent reports here and here, and a brief history of Yemen here.