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US Weighs Diplomatic Relations With Marxist Yemen

January 23, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is considering renewing diplomatic links with strategically-located South Yemen despite the Middle Eastern nation’s Marxist ideology and past support of terrorist groups.

The issue will be discussed Wednesday when President Bush meets at the White House with the President of North Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said a senior administration official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Monday that U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering met with the representative of South Yemen at the United Nations three or four times last fall.

″Well, we’ve had the discussions. We’re thinking it over. We’re talking - we’re going to be discussing the subject with the President of North Yemen while he’s here,″ the official said. The United States is also discussing the matter with Oman and Saudi Arabia, two U.S. allies who have clashed repeatedly with neighboring South Yemen over its support for insurgents in Oman and other countries in the volatile region, said the official.

Pickering also discussed with South Yemen’s representative his government’s support for terrorism, the official said.

South Yemen is one of six countries under U.S. economic boycott for their support of international terrorism. The others are Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

North Yemen, which enjoys good relations with both superpowers, has had diplomatic ties with the United States since 1946. The south, which was a British protectorate until it gained independence in 1967, broke off ties with the United States after aligning itself with Moscow and adopting a Marxist ideology. The country, at the tip of the Red Sea, became a major facility for Soviet naval units in the Indian Ocean.

The talks with the United States were prompted by moves toward reform in South Yemen, following upheaval in the governments of other Soviet allies. The reforms have also lent impetus to a decade-old effort to unify north and south, with the two countries agreeing this week to prepare a joint constitution for a referendum by Nov. 30.

But U.S. officials believe the unification process will take time and say this does not influence considerations about possible diplomatic ties with South Yemen.

An eventual union between the two countries would not ″do any damage to U.S. interests,″ the official said.

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