North Yemen advances on seceding south: Southerners declare independence but the numerical superiority of President's forces advancing on Aden is beginning to tell

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The Independent Online
NORTHERN forces continued their advance yesterday to bring the breakaway southern Yemen back into the fold and strangle at birth what they regard as the illegitimate southern state declared at the weekend.

But as they pushed into southern oil fields to try to take control of the country's most valuable economic resource, a Scud missile slammed into a densely populated neighborhood of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, destroying many homes. Rescue workers said at least four people had been killed. Southern forces have fired more than a dozen missiles into Sanaa since the civil war broke out on 5 May.

Northern forces said they were in control of Ataq, capital of Shabwa, one of the south's two oil- producing provinces. Their success follows heavy fighting in which they seized the key airbase of Al-Anad, 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the southern capital of Aden. The slow but relentless progress of the numerically superior northern forces has obliged the southern leader, Ali Salem al- Beidh, to flee Aden, which he has named capital of the new state. He has established his base at Mukalla, in the Hadramawt, 300 miles to the north east. The Hadramawt also contains the main oilfields in the south, on which Mr Beidh depends for the economic independence of southern Yemen.

Yesterday, oil industry officials said production at Masila remained unchanged by the fighting at 150,000 barrels per day. Mr Beidh had been removed as vice- president of united Yemen by the northern leader President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The civil war, which broke out nearly three weeks ago, spelt the end of the four-year marriage between the northern Yemen Arab Republic and the southern People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). At the weekend, the southern leadership formalised the divorce by seceding.

According to a decree issued in Aden the new state, the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY), is to be ruled by a five-man presidential council. Headed by Mr Beidh, the secretary-general of the Yemen Socialist Party, the council includes his deputy, Salem Saleh Muhammad, and an opposition member, Abdel Qawi Hassan Makkawi, suggesting that Mr Beidh is intent on unifying all southern Yemenis against the north.

The new entity has not been recognised by any other states, with the exception of Somaliland, and the north has warned it will sever relations with any state which does so. The loss of relations with Yemen is hardly the greatest sanction in international diplomacy. A greater deterrent is the opposition, in public at least, of the Arab world to any further division.

In London, Foreign Office officials said Britain still recognised the Republic of Yemen. British policy has always been to recognise states, not governments, and Britain is unlikely to give any support to the south so long as the union is even remotely viable.

The war between the two sides has continued on the airwaves. The northerners refer to the south as 'forces of apostasy and secession' and Mr Beidh as 'traitor, rebel and deviant'. The southerners, by contrast, lambast the 'forces of reaction and tradition of the Ahmar clan' - a reference to the leader of the conservative Islamic Islah party, which is in coalition with President Saleh.

(Photographs and map omitted)