'We could hear a very important announcement tomorrow morning. They might announce a new southern state,' he said.
Northern forces of the President, Ali Abdulla Saleh, say they are preparing for a final assault on Aden after waging a 13-day military campaign to crush their opponents, led by Vice-President Ali Salem al-Baidh and his Yemen Socialist Party (YSP). The diplomat said secession was being discussed at a meeting of the YSP political bureau. Aides to Mr Baidh confirmed the bureau was in session. Opposition politicians were reported to be attending.
The diplomat said southern officials had discussed possible secession with several Arab states that they suspected might recognise a new South Yemen.
The diplomat said Egypt, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbours have been contacted, and that Russia might recognise the new state 'after a few Arab countries recognise it and in consultation with the United States'. The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, who has tried to mediate between northern and southern leaders, has said that the seizure of Aden would be considered an occupation.
The YSP ruled South Yemen before Mr Baidh and Mr Saleh merged the two countries in 1990 to create a united Yemen of 13 million people. The two leaders fell out a year ago. Months of feuding over the balance of power flared into all-out war on 4 May.