SAN'A, Yemen - The head of a coalition of Persian Gulf countries seeking to broker an end to Yemen's political crisis gave up Wednesday and left the country, opposition and government leaders said.
Yemen is reeling from three months of street protests demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after more than three decades in power.
The Gulf Cooperation Council sought to mediate a deal for Saleh to leave power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Saleh snubbed the deal last month, prompting a visit from the coalition's head, Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani, to try to break the impasse.
But Zayyani, who is from Bahrain, ended his five-day visit Wednesday without closing the deal, leaving each side blaming the other for its failure.
In Washington, the White House said that John Brennan, who is an assistant to President Obama, had called Saleh on Wednesday urging him to accept the GCC-brokered plan. He called it "the best path forward for Yemen to become a more secure, unified, and prosperous nation."
This represents a change in the U.S. stance toward Saleh, who was considered an ally in fighting al-Qaeda's active Yemeni branch.
Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri said that Zayyani told the opposition he was leaving because he could not get Saleh to sign.
"He said that since they were not able to reach an agreement, he was leaving San'a and would not come back," Sabri said.
Sabri said Saleh had repeatedly tried to amend the deal by adding conditions that the opposition rejected.
Ruling-party official Yasser al-Yemani confirmed Zayyani's departure, adding that Saleh refused to sign until the sit-ins across the country had ended.
"Saleh will not leave power as long as the security situation remains unstable," he said.
The mass protests have posed an unprecedented challenge to Saleh's rule. Several top military commanders and ruling-party officials have defected to the opposition, while a crackdown by government forces has reportedly killed more than 150 people.
The GCC nations behind the mediation effort were Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Libya: Four foreign journalists held by the Libyan government for six weeks were released Wednesday and moved to a Tripoli hotel. Clare Morgana Gillis, an American, said that she and her colleagues - American James Foley, Spaniard Manuel Varela, and Briton Nigel Chandler - were in good health.
Egypt: Egypt's military rulers denied local media reports that they planned to grant amnesty to deposed President Hosni Mubarak after a wave of popular criticism and calls for new protests. The denial follows unconfirmed reports that Mubarak would be pardoned in return for an apology to the nation for any wrongdoing and would also hand over his assets.
Bahrain: Three former top editors of Bahrain's main opposition newspaper pleaded not guilty to charges of unethical coverage of Shiite-led opposition protests against the kingdom's Sunni rulers. The Al Wasat newspaper journalists entered their pleas and defense lawyers requested copies of prosecutors' documents in a brief hearing at Bahrain's Higher Criminal Court.
Tunisia: A Tunisian colonel and two foreign militants were killed during a clash near the Algerian border. The attack in Rouhia, in the center-west region of Siliana, is the fourth time in less than a week that Tunisian security forces have uncovered foreign fighters from neighboring countries in North Africa.