Yemen death toll mounts
Sana'a - Western pressure mounted on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday to stand down as at least 24 people were killed in as many hours and Gulf states sought to mediate a deal with the opposition.
A spokesperson for Yemen's main opposition coalition, in an initial reaction to an offer by the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Saleh's foes were ready for a conditional mediation.
Mohammed Qahtan said: "We welcome (a GCC invitation) and said we will attend, but to discuss a transfer of power only."
An official source, declining to be named, said Sana'a was also in favour of talks, which would be held in Riyadh at a still-undetermined date.
But the opposition remained cautious.
Another top opposition official, Mohammed al-Sabri, said: "We welcome any effort that would lead to (Salleh's) immediate departure, but we haven't received anything to discuss yet."
Meanwhile, the European Union urged Saleh to begin a political transition "without delay," a day after Washington pressed him to negotiate a peaceful handover, warning that al-Qaeda stood ready to benefit from a power vacuum.
Five people were killed on Tuesday in a firefight in Sana'a between troops of an army division that has sided with anti-regime protesters and tribesmen close to Saleh, security sources said.
On Monday, security forces in Taez opened fire after protesters demanding Saleh's resignation marched on the governor's headquarters, about 200km from Sana'a.
More than 100 people have been killed in Yemen's crackdown on protesters who launched nationwide demonstrations in late January to unseat Saleh, in power for the past three decades.
Officially, Saleh's response to opposition demands to step down and hand over to his deputy for an interim period has been to urge protesters to go home and dismantle their roadblocks.
The autocratic leader, in power since 1978, had said he was willing to step down by the end of this year, but his ruling General People's Congress party has defiantly said he should serve out his term until 2013.