Yemen suspends oil minister over queues for petrol

Yemen`s Prez suspended his oil minister and the head of the national oil company over a fuel shortage that has forced people to queue at petrol stations.

Last Updated: Jan 12, 2011, 18:36 PM IST

Sanaa: Yemen`s President on Wednesday suspended
his oil minister and the head of the national oil company over
a fuel shortage that has forced people to queue at petrol
stations, the defence ministry said.

"The minister for oil and minerals, Amir Salem
al-Aydarus, and the executive director of the Yemen Petroleum
Company, Omar al-Arhabi, have been suspended from their
positions on account of the popular discontent caused by the
lack of fuel," said a statement on the ministry`s website.

The decision by President Ali Abdullah Saleh would see
the deputies of the two men assume responsibility of
their respective portfolios, the statement added.

For a week, a fuel shortage has led to long queues at
petrol stations and traffic jams in Yemen, which produces
300,000 barrels of crude oil per day but its oil production is
declining by about five percent each year.

While gasoline is in short supply in the capital
Sanaa, diesel shortages afflict the rest of the country,
according to residents of Saada in the north and Maarib in the
south.

Petrol station managers have stepped up their protests
in recent days, some threatening to rally in the streets if
supplies fail to arrive soon.

No official explanation has been given for the fuel
shortage in Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula`s poorest country
which is also battling al Qaeda militants, northern Shiite
rebels and southern separatists.

Suspected al Qaeda militants sabotaged an oil pipeline
in the southern Yemen province of Shabwa yesterday.
On June 12, armed men blew up an oil pipeline in Marib
province and the authorities blamed al Qaeda militants --
among them two Saudis.

Earlier, tribal sources had said tribesmen used a
bulldozer to expose the oil pipeline and then blew it up in
retaliation for an attack on one of their chiefs accused of
harbouring al Qaeda operatives.

On June 5, a Yemeni army colonel and two soldiers were
killed in an attack on a convoy en route to Safar oil field,
in an attack attributed to al Qaeda.

And in May tribesmen from Marib carried out two
pipeline attacks.

The suspension of Yemen`s oil chiefs comes while
rioters in Tunisia and Algeria protest soaring unemployment
and inflation.

PTI