, SANAA, Jan 12, 2011 – 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 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 on Tuesday.
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.