x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Fuel crisis adds to Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh's woes

Price quadruples, queues at petrol stations lengthen and diesel supplies dry up as Yemeni tribesmen frustrated by Saleh's refusal to resign block oil supply to Aden refinery.

SANA'A // Yemen is facing a growing fuel crisis after its crude oil exports and main refinery were shut down more than a week ago.

The shortages began after tribesmen demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down cut a main oil pipeline in the central province of Marib last month, police said. The pipeline supplied the Aden refinery and the Ras Isa export terminal on the Red Sea.

For the last five days trucks and buses at petrol stations in major cities have waited in queues at least one kilometre long to get diesel and petrol, which station employees said ran out two days ago. Stations were also rationing diminishing petrol supplies.

"I have come from my village in the hope to get some diesel for my generator to pump off water and irrigate my vegetables farm. I have been waiting here for more than six hours and now they say it is finished. This is crazy," said Hussein Mahdi as he waited for fuel yesterday. The farmer from Bani Hushaish had travelled 70 kilometres to buy his fuel in Sana'a.

The price of 20 litres of fuel from non-government suppliers, who still had stock, jumped to 6,000 Yemeni rials (Dh91) from 1,500 rials a few weeks ago.

Employees from Aden Refinery Company told Reuters the refinery had been shut for at least a week, and that their director was in Sana'a on Wednesday to request financing to import crude oil. Local media reports said that Yemen has already bought about 15,000 tonnes of diesel from Saudi Arabia to help reduce the fuel shortage and, yesterday, said that 5,000 tonnes of cooking gas had been unloaded at the Aden port.

In Sana'a, residents said electricity had been cut between eight and ten hours daily since last week. The shortages add to the pressure on Mr Saleh who at the weekend refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council agreement with the country's main opposition that would have him quit power within a month in exchange for immunity.

Nationwide protests and sit-ins demanding his departure have entered their third month, with protesters requesting his resignation and a trial for the deaths of some 130 protesters in clashes with security forces.

Many Yemenis this week and last week have blocked streets with their cooking gas cylinders while others joined protests carrying empty fuel canisters emblazoned with the word "leave."

Both the government and the opposition blame each other for the fuel shortage.

Abdulkarim al Eryani, Mr Saleh's political adviser, warned on Wednesday that Yemen is in danger of collapse if the GCC deal is not signed soon.

The deal was meant to be signed on Saturday but Mr Saleh refused. Mr Saleh insists that he would sign as the head of the ruling party and not in his capacity as president, which the opposition rejects.

The army newspaper, 26 September, said yesterday that a third draft agreement is in the works and is to be signed by heads of the opposition and the ruling party in Sana'a, endorsed by Mr Saleh and the GCC.

However, an opposition leader who asked not to be named, denied the report, saying that Mr Saleh must sign in his capacity as president and that they would not continue to wait much longer.

Both the government and opposition have called for rival rallies today.