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Tass Says South Yemen Fighting Over; President Deposed With AM-South Yemen, Bjt

January 25, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Soviet news agency Tass announced Saturday that South Yemen’s Marxist party and national assembly replaced President Ali Nasser Mohammed with a provisional head of state, who apparently has Kremlin support.

Tass said fighting that had raged since Jan. 13 between Mohammed’s faction and a rival faction had ceased and the situation in the capital city of Aden ″is gradually returning to normal.″

The dispatch, datelined Aden and delayed for a day after Mohammed’s reported replacement, did not say what happened to the president, who also was seen as having Kremlin support.

South Yemen is a key Soviet ally in the Middle East.

The Tass account warned ″the U.S.A. and other forces″ against interfering in South Yemen’s strife, which the Kremlin has called a ″purely internal″ matter.

″The situation in Aden is gradually returning to normal. All fighting has been ceased here.″ Tass said. ″The authorities are beginning to take measures to restore the operation of the municipal economy, transport and communication. Central radio is functioning.″

Tass said the South Yemeni Socialist Party Central Committee and the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Council, the national assembly, met Friday and named Prime Minister Heidar al-Attas ″acting president of the country.″

Al-Attas also was given the formal title of vice president of the assembly’s presidium, Tass said.

In another dispatch, Tass said al-Attas and Foreign Minister Abdul al-Dali returned to South Yemen on Friday from Moscow, where they had spent about 10 days and met twice with Yegor K. Ligachev, the Kremlin’s No. 2 man.

There was no word on whether they were also received by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Rebel broadcasts monitored in Bahrain on Friday had reported the replacement of Mohammed with al-Attas.

But an Arab diplomat in Bahrain, who insisted on anonymity, said Saturday that South Yemen’s neighbors still considered Mohammed the ″sole legitimate″ leader of his country.

Ligachev’s reported comments in a meeting with Al-Attas on Thursday, and the Tass dispatch from Aden on Saturday seemed to demonstrate Kremlin support for the new provisional leadership in the Arab world’s only avowedly Marxist nation.

But the reports on Ligachev’s meeting, al-Attas’ departure from Moscow and the South Yemeni party gathering were all delayed 24 hours, an indication that the Soviets may have waited to see how events unfolded before taking a public stand.

This caution reflected the Kremlin’s public approach throughout the crisis, which has been reported only briefly in official Soviet news media. The civil war left the Soviets in a difficult position since both sides appeared to have Soviet supporters.

Abel Fata Ismail, the hardline Marxist who reportedly helped spark the violence, was in exile in Moscow from 1980 until 1985.

Tass quoted Ligachev as telling al-Attas the Soviet Union understood the need for ″restoring unity″ in South Yemen.

″It was declared that the Soviet Union, too, will continue a policy of friendly cooperation with the Yemen Socialist Party and the People’s Democratic Republic of (South) Yemen,″ Tass said.

On Saturday, it said South Yemeni leaders gave a ″high appraisal″ to Soviet support and solidarity during the crisis.

″A strengthening and development of relations with the socialist countries and the U.S.S.R. will further be the cornerstone of the foreign policy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen,″ it said.

In Abu Dhabi, the government-owned newspaper Al-Ittihad said North Yemeni officials were calling Mohammed’s dismissal ″illegitimate.″

The paper said only 15 of 77 members of the Party Central Committee attended Friday’s meeting in Aden.

In his meeting with al-Attas, Tass said Ligachev made ″a special point .... to stress the purely internal nature of developments″ in South Yemen.

But Pravda, the Communist Party daily, partly blamed ″external reactionary imperialist forces″ for the bloody strife.

In Washington on Friday, the State Department said there was evidence the Soviets were siding with the rebels. But in London, British officials said the Kremlin informed Britain it had no intention of intervening militarily.

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