SANAA (AFP) - Gulf states heaped pressure on Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday, announcing they expect him to quit after more than two months of bloody protests. Members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council "hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down," said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. Saleh had on Wednesday welcomed Gulf mediation, according to a statement on Saba state news agency, which said he "affirmed the necessity of a serious and fruitful dialogue to overcome the current crisis." The exit plan offered to Saleh would see him hand power over to his deputy, while providing guarantees of protection to the strongman and his family, said the opposition. A diplomat in Sanaa confirmed the content of the proposal, adding it includes forming a national unity government led by the opposition. The offer bears a resemblance to one the opposition itself profferred at the weekend calling for Saleh to make way for Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to head a caretaker regime. A Yemeni opposition leader told AFP on Thursday that any efforts to help usher Saleh out of office was "naturally welcome". "The ball is in Saleh's court and any developments resulting from any delay would be his responsibility," said Mohammed al-Sabri, a leading figure in the opposition Common Forum. Saleh, a close US and Saudi ally who has been in power since 1978, has faced nationwide protests since late January calling for his departure.