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Yemen to solve the dilemma of dual armies

By Deborah PughCairo / January 20, 1994



THE specter of civil war in Yemen has been quashed for now. Concerns mounted Tuesday when a spokesman for President Ali Abdullah Saleh charged that MIG jets from the former southern Yemeni Air Force had launched a raid on a military base in northern Yemen.

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The southern military's explanation that the warplanes were on an approved training mission has been accepted in the capital, Sana, according to a well-informed source there.

Yet the incident highlights the problems of having one state with two militaries - the legacy of Yemen's incomplete unification in 1990.

The admission that the air-raid allegations had been wrong lent credibility to southern accusations that the north's military, led by President Saleh, had fabricated the incident to legitimize its own troop buildup along the former border.

There are signs, however, that a way may be found out of the political mire that has frozen government in Yemen for the past five months. On Tuesday, representatives of the feuding parties, ostensibly governing in a coalition, signed a reconciliation pact that outlines a framework and schedule for resolving the issues threatening to tear Yemen apart.

Chief among the issues to be resolved is merging the two military establishments ``within four months.'' Another key concession for the north is acceptance of decentralized government.

Tension between the men who negotiated unification remains high. Ultimately Ali Al-Baidh of the Yemen Socialist Party and President Saleh will have to sign the reconciliation document together. Mr. Al-Baidh, despite his position as vice-president of the republic, has been in self-imposed exile in Aden, formerly the capital of Marxist South Yemen.