Yemen to hold presidential vote on Feb 21

Yemen is to hold a snap presidential election on February 21 in line with an accord which led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation after three decades in power, his deputy announced on Saturday.

Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, to whom Saleh has handed over power under the Gulf-mediated accord, announced the date in a decree, bringing forward the election that had initially been due to take place in 2013.

The deal makes Saleh, 69, the fourth Arab leader to be ousted from power in the Arab Spring which has swept away the autocratic rulers of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Hadi as the sole candidate in February's poll is to officially take over as consensus president for a two-year interim period, after which parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held.

The early poll follows a 90-day transition period which kicked off with the signing of the power transfer deal in Riyadh last Wednesday following several months of deadly anti-regime protests in Yemen.

The accord called for Saleh, in return for immunity from prosecution, to hand all "necessary constitutional powers" to his deputy with immediate effect and to hold office on an honorary basis only for the 90-day period.

A bloody crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations across Yemen since January has left hundreds of people dead.

But demonstrators in Sanaa's Change Square, the focal point of anti-Saleh protests that broke out in January, say they reject the Riyadh deal and want the president to go on trial.

Yemen's opposition parties, in contrast to activists on the street, have nominated the head of their coalition to lead the first government after the veteran Saleh agreed to quit under international and domestic pressure.

Mohammed Basindawa, a former member of Saleh's ruling party, was chosen late Friday to head a unity government, opposition Common Forum spokesman Mohammed Qahtan told AFP.

Basindawa who was chosen to head the "National Council for the Forces of the Peaceful Revolution" after it was formed in August, served in governments under Saleh several times, including as a foreign minister.

Born in Aden, the capital of former South Yemen, Basindawa quit Saleh's General People's Congress a decade ago, becoming an opponent but without joining a party.

Saleh himself is to remain in Saudi Arabia for medical tests after having signed the deal, said his foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Kurbi. His return to Yemen depended on the results and he could need treatment in the United States.

He has already undergone a first dose of treatment in Saudi Arabia for wounds sustained in an attack on his palace on June 3.

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