Civil war looms in Yemen

Click to follow
SANAA - Yemen's leaders have failed in fresh talks to end an eight-month feud, raising fears of Somali-style civil war in their small oil-producing state on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Oman, which played host to peace talks on Sunday between Yemen's northern President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his southern rival, Vice-President Ali Salem al-Bid, said yesterday that the two men had failed to resolve their differences. Mr Saleh was said to have stormed out of the talks.

The Sultanate seemed to wash its hands of the affairs of its neighbour, saying it was pulling out of a five-nation team trying to disengage rival Yemeni forces and it hoped Yemeni leaders would resolve their differences on their own.

Mr Saleh and Mr Bid, who left Oman separately yesterday, were the former leaders of North and South Yemen respectively before the two merged in 1990. They have been locked in a paralysing feud for eight months over the balance of power in the united state between its conservative and tribe-dominated north and the largely secular, formerly Marxist south.

The two men signed a reconciliation accord in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in February which was supposed to end the quarrel by bringing in political and economic reforms. But there has been intermittent fighting between rival army units since then and the northern and southern political parties have continued to trade insults and accuse each other of wanting to split the country in two again.

Political sources in Sanaa said the Omanis were already frustrated with Yemeni army units, which agree to move out of areas where they are confronting rival troops only to move back again when the committee had gone.

Diplomats in Sanaa and officials in neighbouring Arab states said they feared a military confrontation which neither side could easily win.