July 20, 2005

Eleven die in Yemen riots over fuel price rises

By Mohammed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - At least 11 people were killed in clashes
with police in Yemen on Wednesday after rioters threw stones
and set fires in streets to protest against subsidy cuts that
nearly doubled petrol prices, witnesses said.

Thousands of protesters in the capital, Sanaa, smashed
furniture in government offices, blocked roads with flaming
tires, and knocked out electricity transformers in some areas.

Police fired shots to disperse protesters hurling stones at
the offices of Prime Minister Abdul-Qader Bagammal and
ambulances rushed some injured people from the scene.

Witnesses and medics reported similar protests in three
other towns, including the town of Dhala in south Yemen where
five of the 11 dead were killed.

Demonstrators shouted slogans attacking Bagammal and the
ruling party of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Police, using tear gas and water cannon to control the
crowds, blocked off the house of Vice President Abd-Rabbu Hadi
where protesters converged.

Yemenis are protesting against a government announcement on
Tuesday to cut fuel subsidies as part of reforms backed by the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

"This is a natural reaction because the government's
reforms are a lie and we can't take it any more...This
government is making the rich richer and the poor poorer," said
one young man in Sanaa.

A liter of diesel rose to 45 rials (24 U.S. cents) from 17
rials; a liter of petrol was priced at 65 rials, up from 35
rials, and a liter of kerosene rose to 45 rials from 16 rials.
Gas cylinders rose to 400 rials from 250 rials.

Bagammal has said the government wants to cut $500 million
a year of diesel subsidies as part of an economic reform
program in the poor country of 20 million people.

The government said this week's hikes were in line with
surging global oil prices.

Opposition parties say such measures will increase pressure
on the poor and demand instead a crackdown on corruption, which
they blame for Yemen's economic problems.

Yemen began implementing harsh economic reforms to address
a sharp budget deficit, high unemployment and crippling

According to World Bank figures, more than 42 percent of
its 19 million people live below the poverty line, illiteracy
is estimated at 50 percent and unemployment is over 20 percent.