A week ago there were signs that the two sides were tiring of the fighting after the north captured the sprawling airbase of al- Anad, 43km (27 miles) north-west of Aden, and that both were seeking some form of political settlement. The south, whose leader, vice-president Ali Salem al-Beidh, declared on 21 May that it was seceding from the north, had said it wanted merely to be allowed to live in peace. And the north, led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, indicated it would deal with southern leaders not associated with the decision to secede.
Yesterday before dawn northern troops advancing on the southern stronghold of Aden opened a new north-western front to tighten the siege on the city. Early this morning, northern forces fired at least two missiles at Aden and started a big fire within the military airport complex. Northern Yemeni forces have made the military airport a main target since the war started. The northern government says its forces have linked up to surround the city from the land side. Heavy fighting is reported along the Abyan front and at Shabwa, both east of Aden.
Now the Yemen, the name by which the international community still knows the officially united country, has called on the world states to keep out of its affairs. In this context Yemen means northern Yemen. It has appealed to the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Cairo to treat the Yemeni war as an internal affair. The appeal was made by Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, speaker of the Yemeni parliament and leader of the Islah Islamic party, the third member of the ruling coalition until the fighting broke out. He asked that the conference should do nothing to recognise what he called the 'secessionist rebels'.
The government in Sanaa has also begun lobbying at the United Nations against a bid by the Security Council to debate a ceasefire, an arms embargo and a UN factfinding mission to Yemen. It has sent an envoy to New York, Abdulaziz Abdulghani, a member of the presidential council. The draft resolution has the support of five of the six members of the Gulf Co- operation Council and Egypt, and is proposed by Oman, which today takes over as president of the Security Council. The (north) Yemenis are happy with the draft as it stands but want it to include support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and democracy of Yemen - with emphasis on unity.
The fighting in Yemen is a small war in a place of little strategic or regional interest. Yet although the politics of the Arabian peninsula might have their own dynamic, they are also part of the politics of the Arab world.
The original marriage between north and south was more than an implementation of the old Nasserite pan-Arab rhetoric. Both sides had aspired to unity for years. The Yemen civil war has split the Arab world, with the old- style Arab nationalists led by Iraq ignoring the human suffering and seeking the preservation of the union at any cost.
During the crisis following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Yemen occupied the seat reserved for the Arab world at the UN Security Council. Yemen sought an Arab solution to the conflict rather than a Western-led military confrontation.
LONDON - Two German-registered ships said surface-to-air missiles were fired at them while they were in international waters in the Gulf of Aden, Reuter reports. There were no injuries or damage.
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