x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Yemen restricts access to diplomatic offices

Sources say the move is in response to opposition to his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SANA'A // Yemen yesterday restricted access to embassies, diplomatic missions and international organisations to only people who have received security approval.

The measure came a day after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, met leaders from the Joint Meeting Parties, an opposition coalition that includes the Islamist Islah party, at the headquarters of the US embassy late on Tuesday.

"It is strictly prohibited for any person to enter any embassy or headquarters of any foreign mission without an identity card or prior co-ordination with relevant security services," the state-owned Saba news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying.

While the government said the restriction was for security reasons, political and diplomatic sources said the move was in response to the meeting between Mrs Clinton and the Joint Meeting Parties.

The meeting, which lasted about two hours, focused on the tension between the opposition and the Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling General People's Congress over electoral reforms, according to opposition sources.

Earlier this month, Yemen's parliament gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment that eliminates presidential term limits, which would allow Mr Saleh a chance to stay in power past the end of his second term in 2013.

Hundreds of opposition supporters protested against the move outside the parliament.

The sources also said opposition leaders told Mrs Clinton of potential violence if the ruling party proceeds with the parliamentary election scheduled for April. The opposition called last week for people to take to the streets and stop the vote.

Opposition leaders have said the ruling party's approval of the elections violated a 2009 accord on political reforms under which they agreed to postpone the parliamentary vote for two years while political and electoral reforms were implemented.

"Al Qa'eda is the first priority for the US. But, the Americans realise that the political tension and the failure of the government and the opposition to reach an agreement over elections will create further problems that would weaken the government's ability to fight al Qa'eda," said Saeed al Jemhi, an independent al Qa'eda analyst.

Meanwhile, Mr Saleh yesterday suspended Amir al Aidarous, the oil minister, and Omar al Arhabi, the head of the national Yemen Petroleum Company, after a fuel shortage forced people to queue at petrol stations for the past week, according to the defence ministry website.

The deputies of the two men will assume responsibilities at the ministry and the petroleum company.