Yemen's embattled president agreed Saturday to a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators to step down within 30 days and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a major about-face for the autocratic leader who has ruled for 32 years.
A coalition of seven opposition parties said they also accepted the deal but with reservations. Even if the differences are overcome, those parties do not speak for all of the hundreds of thousands of protesters seeking President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, and signs already indicated that a deal on those terms would not end confrontations in the streets.
A day earlier, protesters staged the largest of two months of demonstrations, filling a five-lane boulevard across the capital with a sea of hundreds of thousands of people. Day after day of protests have presented a stunning display of defiance in the face of a crackdown that has included sniper attacks and killed more than 130 people.
The uprising and a wave of defections by allies, including several top military commanders, have left Saleh clinging to power and now appear to be pushing him to compromise on his earlier insistence of staying in office until his term ends in 2013.
The United States has watched the uprising with particular concern because Saleh has been an ally in fighting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen's remote mountainous south and has made several nearly successful attempts to attack U.S. and other targets abroad.
Mark Toner, U.S. State Department spokesman, said Washington welcomes the proposal for ending the crisis and called for immediate dialogue by all sides on a transfer of power.
Later, the White House in a statement urged all parties in Yemen "to move swiftly to implement" a deal transferring power.
The opposition movement, fed up with poverty and corruption under Saleh, took inspiration from the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, and has grown in numbers since the first protests in early February.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes powerful Saudi Arabia, has been seeking to broker an end to the crisis in the fragile nation on the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula.
Under the latest draft, Yemen's parliament would grant Saleh legal protection from prosecution. The president would submit his resignation to lawmakers within 30 days and hand power to his vice president, who would call for new presidential elections.