Yemen Background Notes

Yemen Official Info

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Details of      Yemen Background Notes, Yemen Official Info
Details for Yemen Background Notes

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Background Notes: Yemen, January 2002

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Yemen

Geography
Area: 527,970 sq. km. (203,796 sq. mi.); about the size of California and
Pennsylvania combined.
Cities: Capital--Sanaa. Other cities--Aden, Taiz, Hodeida, and al-Mukalla.
Terrain: Mountainous interior bordered by desert with a flat and sandy
coastal plain.
Climate: Temperate in the mountainous regions in the western part of the
country, extremely hot with minimal rainfall in the remainder of the
country. Humid on the coast.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Yemeni(s).
Population (2001 est.): 18 million.
Annual growth rate: 3.38%.
Ethnic group: Predominantly Arab.
Religions: Islam, small numbers of Jews, Christians, and Hindus.
Language: Arabic.
Education: Attendance (ages 6-15, 1998 est.)--57.4% total, including 79.4%
of males, 33.9% of females. Literacy (1998 est.)--45%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--68/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--60
yrs.
Work force (by sector): Agriculture--53%; public services--17%;
manufacturing--4%; construction--7%.
Work force (percentage of total population): 25%.

Government
Type: Republic; unification (of former south and north Yemen): May 22, 1990.
Constitution: Adopted May 21, 1990 and ratified May 1991.
Branches: Executive--Prime Minister with Cabinet. Legislative--bicameral
legislature w/ 111-seat Shura Council and 301-seat House of Representatives.
Judicial--the constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former
northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system
includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in Sanaa.
Administrative subdivisions: 18 governorates subdivided into districts.
Political parties: General People's Congress (GPC), Yemeni Grouping for
Reform (Islaah), Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Baathist parties, Nasserist
parties, and Muslim fundamentalist parties.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
National holiday: May 22 (Unity Day).
Flag: Three horizontal bands--red, white, and black.

Economy
GDP (2000 est.): $14.4 billion.
Per capita GDP (2000 est.): $820.
Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish, rock salt, minor deposits of coal
and copper.
Agriculture (est. 20% of GDP): Products--qat (a shrub containing a natural
amphetamine), coffee, cotton, fruits, vegetables, cereals, livestock and
poultry, hides, skins, tobacco, honey. Arable land (est )--5%.
Industry (est. 42% of GDP): Types--petroleum refining, mining, food
processing, building materials.
Trade (2000 est.): Exports--$4.2 billion: crude petroleum, refined oil
products, hides, fish, fruits, vegetables, cotton, coffee,
biscuits, plastic pipes. Major markets--Thailand, China, South Korea, Japan.
Imports--$2.7 billion: cereals, feed grains, foodstuffs, machinery,
petroleum products, transportation equipment. Major suppliers--Japan, Saudi
Arabia, Australia, EU countries, China, Russia and other New Independent
States, United States.
Exchange rate (Nov. 2001): Official--fluctuates between 125-173 rials per
U.S.$1 and floats based on an average of foreign currencies. Market--since
floating the dollar, market rate usually reflects the official rate of
exchange.

PEOPLE
Unlike other people of the Arabian Peninsula who have historically been
nomads or seminomads, Yemenis are almost entirely sedentary and live in
small villages and towns scattered throughout the highlands and coastal
regions.

Yemenis are divided into two principal Islamic religious groups: the Zaidi
sect of the Shi'a, found in the north and northwest, and the Shafa'i school
of Sunni Muslims, found in the south and southeast. Yemenis are mainly of
Semitic origin, although African strains are present among inhabitants of
the coastal region. Arabic is the official language, although English is
increasingly understood in major cities. In the Mahra area (the extreme
east), several non-Arabic languages are spoken. When the former states of
north and south Yemen were established, most resident minority groups
departed.

HISTORY
Yemen was one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East.
Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was part of the
Minaean, Sabaean, and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative
spice trade, and later came under Ethiopian and
Persian rule. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control
over the area. After this caliphate broke up, the former north Yemen came
under control of Imams of various dynasties usually of the Zaidi sect, who
established a theocratic political structure that survived until modern
times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shiites apply it to the prophet
Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, his sons Hasan and Hussein, and subsequent lineal
descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified
successors of the prophet.)

Egyptian Sunni caliphs occupied much of north Yemen throughout the 11th
century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, north Yemen was
part of the Ottoman empire, and in some periods its Imams exerted suzerainty
over south Yemen.

Former North Yemen
Ottoman government control was largely confined to cities with the Imam's
suzerainty over tribal areas formally recognized. Turkish forces withdrew in
1918, and Imam Yahya strengthened his control over north Yemen. Yemen became
a member of the Arab league in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947.

Imam Yahya died during an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1948 and was
succeeded by his son Ahmad, who ruled until his death in September 1962.
Imam Ahmad's reign was marked by growing repression, renewed friction with
the United Kingdom over the British presence in the south, and growing
pressures to support the Arab nationalist objectives of Egyptian President
Gamal Abdul Nasser.

Shortly after assuming power in 1962, Ahmad's son, Badr, was deposed by
revolutionary forces which took control of Sanaa and created the Yemen Arab
Republic (YAR). Egypt assisted the YAR with troops and supplies to combat
forces loyal to the Imamate. Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported Badr's
royalist forces to oppose the newly formed republic. Conflict continued
periodically until 1967 when Egyptian troops were withdrawn. By 1968,
following a final royalist siege of Sanaa, most of the opposing leaders
reached a reconciliation; Saudi Arabia recognized the Republic in 1970.

Former South Yemen
British influence increased in the south and eastern portion of Yemen after
the British captured the port of Aden in 1839. It was ruled as part of
British India until 1937, when Aden was made a crown colony with the
remaining land designated as east Aden and west Aden protectorates. By 1965,
most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony
proper had joined to form the British-sponsored federation of south Arabia.

In 1965, two rival nationalist groups--the Front for the Liberation of
Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF)--turned
to terrorism in their struggle to control the country. In 1967, in the face
of uncontrollable violence, British troops began withdrawing, federation
rule collapsed, and NLF elements took control after eliminating their FLOSY
rivals. South Arabia, including Aden, was declared independent on November
30, 1967, and was renamed the People's Republic of South Yemen. In June
1969, a radical wing of the Marxist NLF gained power and changed the
country's name on December 1, 1970, to the People's Democratic Republic of
Yemen (PDRY). In the PDRY, all political parties were amalgamated into the
Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which became the only legal party. The PDRY
established close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical
Palestinians.

Republic of Yemen
In 1972, the governments of the PDRY and the YAR declared that they approved
a future union. However, little progress was made toward unification, and
relations were often strained. In 1979, simmering tensions led to fighting,
which was only resolved after Arab League mediation. The goal of unity was
reaffirmed by the northern and southern heads of state during a summit
meeting in Kuwait in March 1979. However, that same year the PDRY began
sponsoring an insurgency against the YAR. In April 1980, PDRY President
Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir
Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both the YAR and
neighboring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden
between Ali Nasir Muhammad and the returned Abdul Fattah Ismail and their
supporters. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands
of casualties, Ali Nasir's ouster, and Ismail's death. Some 60,000 persons,
including Ali Nasir and his supporters, fled to the YAR.

In May 1988, the YAR and PDRY governments came to an understanding that
considerably reduced tensions including agreement to renew discussions
concerning unification, to establish a joint oil exploration area along
their undefined border, to demilitarize the border, and to allow Yemenis
unrestricted border passage on the basis of only a national identification
card.

In November 1989, the leaders of the YAR (Ali Abdallah Salih) and the PDRY
(Ali Salim Al-Bidh) agreed on a draft unity constitution originally drawn up
in 1981. The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on May 22, 1990. Ali
Abdallah Salih became President, and Ali Salim Al-Bidh became Vice
President.

A 30-month transitional period for completing the unification of the two
political and economic systems was set. A presidential council was jointly
elected by the 26-member YAR advisory council and the 17-member PDRY
presidium. The presidential council appointed a Prime Minister, who formed a
Cabinet. There was also a 301-seat provisional unified Parliament,
consisting of 159 members from the north, 111 members from the south, and 31
independent members appointed by the chairman of the council.

A unity constitution was agreed upon in May 1990 and ratified by the
populace in May 1991. It affirmed Yemen's commitment to free elections, a
multiparty political system, the right to own private property, equality
under the law, and respect of basic human rights. Parliamentary elections
were held on April 27, 1993. International groups assisted in the
organization of the elections and observed actual balloting. The resulting
Parliament included 143 GPC, 69 YSP, 63 Islaah (Yemeni grouping for reform,
a party
composed of various tribal and religious groups), 6 Baathis, 3 Nasserists, 2
Al Haq, and 15 independents. The head of Islaah, Paramount Hashid Sheik
Abdallah Bin Husayn Al-Ahmar, is the speaker of Parliament.

Islaah was invited into the ruling coalition, and the presidential council
was altered to include one Islaah member. Conflicts within the coalition
resulted in the self-imposed exile of Vice President Ali Salim Al-Bidh to
Aden beginning in August 1993 and a deterioration in the general security
situation as political rivals settled scores and tribal elements took
advantage of the unsettled situation.

Haydar Abu Bakr Al-Attas (former southern Prime Minister) continued to serve
as the ROY Prime Minister, but his government was ineffective due to
political infighting. Continuous negotiations between northern and southern
leaders resulted in the signing of the document of pledge and accord in
Amman, Jordan on February 20, 1994. Despite
this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994.

Almost all of the actual fighting in the 1994 civil war occurred in the
southern part of the country despite air and missile attacks against cities
and major installations in the north. Southerners sought support from
neighboring states and received billions of dollars of equipment and
financial assistance. The United States strongly supported Yemeni unity, but
repeatedly called for a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table.
Various attempts, including by a UN special envoy, were unsuccessful to
effect a cease-fire.
Southern leaders declared secession and the establishment of the Democratic
Republic of Yemen (DRY) on May 21, 1994, but the DRY was not recognized by
the international community. Ali Nasir Muhammad supporters greatly assisted
military operations against the secessionists and Aden was captured on July
7, 1994. Other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern
leaders and military went into exile.

Early during the fighting, President Ali Abdallah Salih announced a general
amnesty which applied to everyone except a list of 16 persons. Most
southerners returned to Yemen after a short exile.

An armed opposition was announced from Saudi Arabia, but no significant
incidents within Yemen materialized. The government prepared legal cases
against four southern leaders--Ali Salim Al- Bidh, HaydarAbu Bakr Al-Attas,
Abd Al-Rahman Ali Al-Jifri, and Salih MunassarAl-Siyali--for
misappropriation of official funds. Others on the list of 16 were told
informally they could return to take advantageof the amnesty, but most
remained outside Yemen. Although many of Ali Nasir Muhammad's followers were
appointed to senior governmental positions (including Vice President, Chief
of Staff, and Governor of Aden), Ali Nasir Muhammad himself remained abroad
in Syria.

In the aftermath of the civil war, YSP leaders within Yemen reorganized the
party and elected a new politburo in July 1994. However, the party remained
disheartened and without its former influence. Islaah held a party
convention in September 1994. The GPC did the same in June 1995.

In 1994, amendments to the unity constitution eliminated the presidential
council. President Ali Abdallah Salih was elected by Parliament on October
1, 1994 to a 5-year term. The constitution provides that henceforth the
President will be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates
selected by the legislature. Yemen held its first direct presidential
elections in September 1999, electing President Ali Abdallah Salih to a
5-year term in what were generally considered free and fair elections.
Yemen held its second multiparty parliamentary elections in April 1997.
Constitutional amendments adopted in the summer of 2000 extended the
presidential term by 2 years, thus moving the next presidential elections to
2006. The amendments also extended the parliamentary term of office to a
6-year term, thus moving elections for these seats to 2003. On February 20,
2001, a new constitutional amendment created a bicameral legislature
consisting of a Shura Council (111 seats; members appointed by the
president) and a House of Representatives (301 seats; members elected by
popular vote).

Principal Government Officials
President--Ali Abdallah Salih
Vice President--Abd Al-Rab Mansur Hadi
Prime Minister--Abd al-Qadir Ba Jamal
Deputy Prime Minister--Alawi Salah al-Salami
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Abu Bakr al-Qurbi
Minister of Planning and Development--Ahmad Muhammad Abdallah al-Sufan
Minister of Industry and Trade--Abd al-Rahman al-Uthman
Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources--Dr. Rashid Ba Rabba
Ambassador to the United States--Abd al-Wahab al-Hajri
Ambassador to the United Nations--Abdallah al-Ashtal

The Republic of Yemen maintains an embassy in the United States at 2600
Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 705, Washington, DC 20037 (tel: 202-965-4760).

ECONOMY
At unification, both the YAR and the PDRY were struggling underdeveloped
economies. In the north, disruptions of civil war (1962-70) and frequent
periods of drought had dealt severe blows to a previously prosperous
agricultural sector. Coffee production, formerly the north's main export and
principal form of foreign exchange, declined as the cultivation of qat
increased. Low domestic industrial output and a lack of raw materials made
the YAR dependent on a wide variety of imports.

Remittances from Yemenis working abroad and foreign aid paid for perennial
trade deficits. Substantial Yemeni communities exist in many countries of
the world, including Yemen's immediate neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula,
Indonesia, India, East Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union and China provided largescale
assistance to the YAR. This aid included funding of substantial construction
projects, scholarships, and considerable military assistance.

In the south, pre-independence economic activity was overwhelmingly
concentrated in the port city of Aden. The seaborne transit trade which the
port relied upon collapsed with the closure of the Suez Canal and Britain's
withdrawal from Aden in 1967. Only extensive Soviet aid, remittances from
south Yemenis working abroad, and revenues from the Aden refinery (built in
the 1950s) kept the PDRY's centrally planned Marxist economy afloat. With
the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a cessation of Soviet aid, the
south's economy basically collapsed.

Since unification, the government has worked to integrate two relatively
disparate economic systems. However, severe shocks, including the return in
1990 of approximately 850,000 Yemenis from the Gulf states, a subsequent
major reduction of aid flows, and internal political disputes culminating in
the 1994 civil war hampered economic growth.

Since the conclusion of the war, the government entered into agreement with
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to institute an extremely successful
structural adjustment program. Phase one of the IMF program included major
financial and monetary reforms, including floating the currency, reducing
the budget deficit, and cutting subsidies. Phase two will address
structural issues such as civil service reform. The World Bank also is
active in Yemen, providing an $80-million loan in 1996. Yemen has received
debt relief from the Paris Club. Some military equipment is still purchased
from former East bloc states and China, but on a cash basis.

Following a minor discovery in 1982 in the south, an American company found
an oil basin near Marib in 1984. A total of 170,000 barrels per day were
produced there in 1995. A small oil refinery began operations near Marib in
1986. A Soviet discovery in the southern governorate of Shabwa has proven
only marginally successful even when taken over by a different group. A
Western consortium began exporting oil from Masila in the Hadramaut in 1993,
and production there reached 420,000 barrels per day in 1999. More than a
dozen other companies have been unsuccessful in finding commercial
quantities of oil. There are new finds in the Jannah (formerly known as the
Joint Oil Exploration Area) and east Shabwah blocks. Yemen's oil exports in
1995 earned about
$1 billion.

Marib oil contains associated natural gas. Proven reserves of 10-13 trillion
cubic feet could sustain a liquid natural gas (LNG) export project. A
long-term prospect for the petroleum industry in Yemen is a proposed
liquefied natural gas project (Yemen LNG), which plans to process and export
Yemen's 17 trillion cubic feet of proven associated and natural gas
reserves. In September 1995, the Yemeni Government signed an agreement that
designated Total of France to be the lead company for an LNG project, and,
in January 1997, agreed to include Hunt Oil, Exxon, and Yukong of South
Korea as partners in the project (YEPC). The project envisions a $3.5
billion investment over 25 years, producing approximately 3.1 million tons
of LNG annually. A Bechtel-Technip joint venture also conducted a
preliminary engineering study for LNG production/development.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
The geography and ruling Imams of north Yemen kept the country isolated from
foreign influence before 1962. The country's relations with Saudi Arabia
were defined by the Taif Agreement of 1934 which delineated the northernmost
part of the border between the two kingdoms and set the framework for
commercial and other intercourse. The Taif Agreement has been renewed
periodically in 20-year increments, and its validity was reaffirmed in 1995.
Relations with the British colonial authorities in Aden and the south were
usually tense.

The Soviet and Chinese Aid Missions established in 1958 and 1959 were the
first important non-Muslim presence in north Yemen. Following the September
1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic became closely allied with and
heavily dependent upon Egypt. Saudi Arabia aided the royalists in their
attempt to defeat the Republicans
and did not recognize the Yemen Arab Republic until 1970. Subsequently,
Saudi Arabia provided Yemen substantial budgetary and project support. At
the same time, Saudi Arabia maintained direct contact with Yemeni tribes,
which sometimes strained its official relations with the Yemeni Government.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis found
employment in Saudi Arabia during the late 1970s and 1980s.

In February 1989, north Yemen joined Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt informing the
Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), an organization created partly in response
to the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and intended to foster
closer economic cooperation and integration among its members. After
unification, the Republic of Yemen was accepted as a member of the ACC in
place of its YAR predecessor. In the wake of the Gulf crisis, the ACC has
remained inactive.

British authorities left southern Yemen in November 1967 in the wake of an
intense terrorist campaign. The people's democratic Republic of Yemen, the
successor to British colonial rule, had diplomatic relations with many
nations, but its major links were
with the Soviet Union and other Marxist countries. Relations between it and
the conservative Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula were strained. There
were military clashes with Saudi Arabia in 1969 and 1973, and the PDRY
provided active support for the DHOFAR rebellion against the Sultanate of
Oman. The PDRY was the only
Arab state to vote against admitting new Arab states from the Gulf area to
the United Nations and the Arab League. The PDRY provided sanctuary and
material support to various international terrorist groups.

Yemen is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the
organization of the Islamic conference. Yemen participates in the nonaligned
movement. The Republic of Yemen accepted responsibility for all treaties and
debts of its predecessors, the YAR and the PDRY. Yemen has acceded to the
nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The Gulf crisis dramatically affected
Yemen's foreign relations. As a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for
1990 and 1991,Yemen abstained on a number of UNSC resolutions concerning
Iraq and Kuwait and voted against the "use of force resolution."
Western and Gulf Arab states reacted by curtailing or canceling aid programs
and diplomatic contacts. At least 850,000 Yemenis returned from Saudi Arabia
and the Gulf.

Subsequent to the liberation of Kuwait, Yemen continued to maintain
high-level contacts with Iraq. This hampered its efforts to rejoin the Arab
mainstream and to mend fences with its immediate neighbors. In 1993, Yemen
launched an unsuccessful diplomatic offensive to restore relations with its
Gulf neighbors. Some of its aggrieved neighbors actively aided the south
during the 1994 civil war. Since the end of that conflict, tangible progress
has been made on the diplomatic front in restoring normal relations with
Yemen's neighbors. The Omani-Yemeni border has been officially demarcated.
In the summer of 2000, Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed an International Border
Treaty settling a 50-year-old dispute over the location of the border
between the two countries. Yemen settled its dispute with Eritrea over the
Hanish Islands in 1998.

U.S.-YEMEN RELATIONS
The United States established diplomatic relations with the Imamate in 1946.
A resident legation, later elevated to embassy status, was opened in Taiz
(the capital at the time) on March 16, 1959and moved to Sanaa in 1966. The
United States was one of the first
countries to recognize the Yemen Arab Republic, doing so on December19,
1962. A major U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program
constructed the Mocha-Taiz-Sanaa highway and the Kennedy memorial water
project in Taiz, as well as many smaller projects. On June 6, 1967, the YAR,
under Egyptian influence, broke diplomatic relations with the United States
in the wake of the Arab-Israeli conflict of that year. Relations were
restored following a visit to Sanaa by Secretary of State William P. Rogers
in July 1972, and a new USAID agreement was concluded in 1973.

During a 1979 border conflict between the Yemen Arab Republic and the
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, the United States cooperated with
Saudi Arabia to greatly expand the security assistance program to the YAR by
providing F-5 aircraft, tanks, vehicles and training. George Bush, while
Vice President, visited in April
1986, and President Ali Abdallah Salih visited the United States in January
1990. The United States had a $42 million USAID program in 1990. From 1973
to 1990, the United States provided the YAR with assistance in the
agriculture, education, health and water
sectors. Many Yemenis were sent on U.S. Government scholarships to study in
the region and in the United States. There was a Peace Corps program with
about 50 volunteers. The U.S. Information Service operates an
English-language institute in Sanaa.

On December 7, 1967, the United States recognized the People's Democratic
Republic of Yemen and elevated its Consulate General in Aden to embassy
status. However, relations were strained. The PDRY was placed on the list of
nations that support terrorism.
On October 24, 1969, south Yemen formally broke diplomatic relations with
the United States. The United States and the PDRY reestablished diplomatic
relations on April 30, 1990, only 3 weeks before the announcement of
unification. However, the embassy in Aden, which closed in 1969, was never
reopened, and the PDRY as a political entity no longer exists.

As a result of Yemen's actions in the Security Council following the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait, the United States drastically reduced its presence in
Yemen including canceling all military cooperation, nonhumanitarian
assistance, and the Peace Corps program. USAID levels dropped in FY1991 to
$2.9 million, but food assistance through
the PL 480 program continued through 1994. Resumption of U.S. Government
food assistance will depend in large part on ongoing negotiations regarding
outstanding arrearages. The United States was actively involved in and
strongly supportive of the 1993 parliamentary elections and continues
working to strengthen Yemen's democratic institutions. The United States
supported a unified Yemen during the 1994 civil war. The USAID program,
focused in the health field, had slowly increased to $8.5 million in FY
1995, but ended in FY 2000.

Defense relations between Yemen and the U.S. are improving with the recent
resumption of International Military Education and Training assistance and
the commercial transfer of some military spare parts.

Currently, Yemen is an important partner in the campaign against terrorism,
providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial arenas. In
late November 2001, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited Washington
to strengthen U.S.-Yemen relations at this crucial time.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Edmund J. Hull
Deputy Chief of Mission--Bradford Hanson

The address of the U.S. embassy in Yemen is P.O. Box 22347, Sanaa, Republic
of Yemen.

[end of document]

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