Yemen halts oil production amid tribal attacks and unrest

YEMEN has stopped producing oil because of internal strife, a government official said, plunging the Arab world’s poorest nation into further economic decline.

Yemen was producing about 290,000 barrels of oil a day, a small amount in global terms, but income from the sales has provided funds for about 75% of the budget of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government.

Opponents of the regime, including powerful tribes, appear to be using the oil weapon to press their demand for Saleh’s resignation.

Security officials have said the tribes have at times blocked fuel tankers from moving through their territory. There have also been attacks on power lines.

The senior oil official said instability, labour strikes and pipeline attacks have stopped oil production.

Most of Yemen’s oil fields lie in the Shabwa, Marib and Hadramawt provinces, the focus of increased security concerns as Muslim militants allied to al-Qaida are said to have moved in after government forces and police left because of the internal strife.

In the most dramatic incident, a pipeline in the Marib province was attacked in March, leading the state-run oil firm Safer to shut down production of nearly 50,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Officials blamed anti-Saleh tribes for the attack.

On Sunday, caretaker oil minister Amir al-Aidarous said tribes in Marib were preventing the government from repairing a pipeline that carries about 100,000 barrels per day.

Mr al-Aidarous warned that some firms are beginning to pull out of the country and that the situation has become “more catastrophic” than expected because of the disruption in the oil sector.


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