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Ships Evacuate Foreigners from South Yemen; Cease-Fire Talks Fail

January 18, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Heavy fighting in South Yemen today halted Britain’s rescue mission of the royal yacht Britannia and it sailed for Djibouti carrying about 300 evacuees from 25 nations, the British government said. Diplomatic sources in the Persian Gulf say government troops now control South Yemen’s capital.

British Broadcasting Corp. radio in London also said three Soviet ships evacuated 1,000 people and took them 160 miles across the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti on the African coast.

The British Defense Ministry said that at first light, small boats from Queen Elizabeth II’s 3,990-ton yacht picked up people from a beach east of Aden, the capital, where 140 people had been picked up the previous evening.

Arab and Western diplomatic sources in the Persian Gulf said troops loyal to President Ali Nasser Mohammed now control most of South Yemen’s capital city of Aden.

Sporadic fighting was still taking place as the government ″mopped up rebel pockets,″ according to Arab diplomats in touch with their representatives in Aden. The diplomats spokes on condition of anonymity.

A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates today quoted South Yemeni Agriculture Minister Mohammed Sulaiman Nasser as reiterating that four top rebel leaders have been killed.

On Monday, the official Aden Radio reported the four chief rebels had been executed. Aden Radio has not broadcast since Monday, when it announced the coup attempt.

Nasser, who arrived late Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after traveling overland, was also quoted by the newspaper Al-Khaleej as saying: ″The rest of the rebel leaders, including Mohammed Haitham, deputy chief of staff, and Qassim Yehya, commander of the Western front, have surrendered.″

The newspaper in Sharjah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, said it conducted the interview with the South Yemeni agriculture minister by telephone.

On Friday, Arab and Western diplomatic sources said heavily armed tribal warriors were moving on Aden to join the rebels.

The sources said the clashes broke out Monday, and originally pitted military units loyal to the president against radicals opposed to his reported plans to liberalize the economy and improve relations with pro-Western Arab countries.

A British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said today in London, ″We are taking aboard anybody who is non-Yemeni.″

The Britannia had been traveling to New Zealand to meet Queen Elizabeth during her visit there next month.

The British Broadcasting Corp., in a report monitored in Cairo, said three Soviet cargo ships also arrived in Djibouti today carrying evacuees, most of them from Eastern Europe. Three British and several French warships were reported standing by.

The United States has no diplomatic ties with South Yemen, and State Department officials in Washington say they have no ″confirmed reports″ of Americans there.

However, a U.S. Embassy official in Djibouti said an American yachtsman disappeared this week while sailing near Aden. He would not give the American’s name.

The Soviet Union, which signed a 20-year friendship treaty with South Yemen in 1979 and has important bases in Aden and nearby Socotra Island, reportedly tried to bring the warring factions together for peace talks.

But the Kuwait News Agency said Friday the talks failed because Mohammed insisted that all coup leaders be exiled.

The news agency said the ruling Yemeni Socialist Party set up a five-member neutral committee that appealed for calm.

South Yemen Premier Abu Bakr al-Attas and Foreign Minister Abdel Aziz Abdo al-Dali, who were in India when the fighting began, met Soviet officials Friday in Moscow.

The official Soviet news agency Tass said the Kremlin leaders warned that only ″the forces of imperialism and reaction ... would profit from the continuation of the bloodshed.″

South Yemen’s navy was said to support Mohammed, while the army and air force were reported to be split in their allegiance.

The rebels also reportedly were backed by tribes from the northern province of Dhali, and from Awaleq in the east.

Ali Ahmed Nasser Antar, vice chairman of the ruling party presidium who was reported by official Aden Radio to be one of four rebel leaders, and Defense Minister Saleh Muslih, also believed involved, reportedly are from Dhali.

Aden Radio has not broadcast since Monday, when it announced the coup attempt and said Ismail, Antar and two other coup leaders were executed. Communications with the outside world have been cut, the airport closed and the border sealed.

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