Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Govt says 50 Aussies in Yemen

Adam Gartrell, AAP Diplomatic Correspondent

March 22, 2011

The federal government is urging dozens of Australians in strife-torn Yemen to get out while they can.

A top Yemeni military commander and at least 18 other senior officers this week defected to the opposition movement demanding an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The defections follow a major escalation in the regime's crackdown on protesters. Saleh loyalists killed 52 demonstrators last week.

In its latest travel advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australians to leave the country.

"The security environment in Yemen is likely to continue to deteriorate, potentially causing the airports at Sanaa and Aden to close at any time," DFAT says.

"Australians should depart Yemen while commercial options are available."

DFAT says there are currently 50 Australians registered as being in the Middle Eastern country.

"We have contacted all registered Australians in the last few days and some have already left the country," a DFAT spokeswoman told AAP.

DFAT has warned it does not have an embassy or consulate in Yemen. "As such our ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited."

Australians in Yemen requiring help should contact the Australian Embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh or DFAT in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305.

DFAT upgraded its travel advice to the top "do not travel" level in October last year.

The government has also warned of the high risk of kidnapping and terrorist attacks in the country

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