Dubai: Yemeni religious scholars and tribal leaders said they would support the demands of the youth revolution and called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down immediately.
In a statement issued late on Thursday in the capital Sanaa, they said the peaceful demands of protesters should be met and urged "the immediate stepping down of the President of the Republic and the dismissal of all his relatives from the military and security apparatus of the state."
Gulf foreign ministers, trying to reduce the threat that Yemeni instability could pose to the region, have invited Saleh and his opponents to talks on a transfer of power to end a political standoff that risks collapsing into violence.
But on Thursday opposition parties rejected the offer to join talks in Riyadh and set a two-week deadline for Saleh to step down.
Diplomatic sources say talks in recent weeks on resolving the crisis, which began when protesters camped out in Sanaa in early February demanding political reforms, have stalled over Saleh`s desire for immunity from prosecution for himself and his influential family.
The Saudi-led Gulf initiative, which Saleh had sought for weeks, appeared to give him this and he accepted the Gulf plan this week.
The statement from the clerics and tribal chiefs stated their "rejection of giving any assurances concerning the bloodletting." At least 116 people have died in the protests, which security forces have tried to break up with live fire and tear gas.
After two months of protests demanding Saleh`s overthrow, Saudi and Western allies of Yemen fear that a prolonged standoff there could ignite clashes between rival military units and cause chaos that would benefit an active al Qaeda wing operating in the poor, mountainous country.