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Yemen oil route reopens after military pullout

SANAA: A road linking Yemen's capital to an oil-producing province was opened for the first time in more than a year on Sunday, after the army and tribal fighters agreed to withdraw from positions along the route, military officials said.

Yemen's Republican Guard had skirmished with tribal groups in the area, blocking deliveries of gas and other products from Maarib to the capital.

Both sides agreed to pull out after negotiations, said an official from Yemen's military committee - a body set up to separate belligerent factions of Yemen's army and tribal fighters following months of unrest in the impoverished country.

The tribal groups backed an uprising which started last year and eventually ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Republican Guard is led by Saleh's son.

Their clashes have added to the insecurity in a country which has also seen repeated bombings of the Maarib oil pipeline, which feeds Yemen's main oil refinery and remains inoperative.

Saleh gave way to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in February under the terms of a power transfer deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by Washington, both alarmed by the rise of al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Yemen amid the political upheaval.

Washington, which wants Hadi to unify the military and turn it against al Qaeda, backed a military offensive against Islamist strongholds in southern Yemen that began last month.

The military says it has driven Islamist fighters from towns the militants seized in early 2011. Yemen's al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility for the killing of the top military commander in the region last week.

 

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