Anti-government protesters carry a giant Yemeni flag during a rally in Sana'a demanding the ouster of President Saleh. Image Credit: Reuters

Sanaa: Youth groups leading protests to oust Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on Gulf states Saturday to withdraw a plan which has failed so far to remove him from power.

Meanwhile, residents in several cities, including Aden, Sa'ada and Hodeida, observed a one-day shutdown of offices and businesses yesterday as part of a civil disobedience campaign called by the opposition to pressurise Saleh to step down.

Yemen's main opposition said on Friday the deal, proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end months of unrest, had been modified to allow Saleh to sign as party leader rather than president, a condition that nearly derailed the deal last week.

"We call on the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council to stop any initiatives that result in alienating the Yemeni people," the groups, under the banner Youth Revolution, said.

"We call on the United States, the European Union and the permanent Security Council members to assume their moral responsibility and stop ... meddling directed against the will of the Yemeni people to ensure freedom and democracy," said the statement signed by the Organisational Committee of the Popular Youth Revolution.

Sceptical opposition leaders said it appeared the GCC had acceded to demands by the ruling party.

But GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif Al Zayani denied yesterday any change had been made to the plan. Asked in Abu Dhabi if there were any changes to the initiative, Al Zayani said: "None whatsoever. It is the same GCC initiative. We added the names of people to sign the agreement."

In continued unrest in the south, gunmen shot dead the director of a branch of a cooperative bank yesterday, a Defence Ministry website said.