Last Friday the leaders of Marxist South Yemen and of pro-Western North Yemen agreed to merge into a single state. After 18 years of intermittent talks, the two countries published a draft 136-article unity Constitution. It will now be referred to their legislative bodies for endorsement.

Yemeni leaders tacitly acknowledged they had been influenced by perestroika, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's restructuring reforms. ``It comes at a time when Yemeni, regional, and international changes are taking place, and it is inevitable that we should take an advanced unionist step,'' President Ali Abdullah Saleh of North Yemen told a news conference.

President Saleh described the agreement as an historic and long overdue move toward merging the Yemens into a republic of about 11 million people - 9 million in the North and 2 million in the South.

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