LONDON, Mar 31, 2011- Britain on Thursday urged its citizens in Yemen to immediately leave the country, saying London was unlikely to be able to carry out evacuations if the security situation deteriorated further.
The Foreign Office also called on all sides in the crisis-hit Middle Eastern country to "exercise the utmost restraint" as government supporters and their challengers gathered for rival demonstrations on Friday.
"In light of the rapid deterioration in the security situation in Yemen... we strongly urge all British nationals to leave the country now while commercial airlines are still flying," said a Foreign Office statement.
"Given the situation on the ground, it is highly unlikely that the British government will be able to evacuate British nationals or provide consular assistance in the event of a further breakdown of law and order," it said.
London pointed out it had already urged its nationals to leave Yemen immediately earlier in March but the amendment to its advice -- related to evacuation -- reflected "the increasing seriousness of the situation."
In Yemen, fears were growing for another tense Friday with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents setting the scene for another confrontation. State news agency Saba said tribal chiefs, clerics, civil society figures, youths and supporters from the countryside were streaming into Sanaa on Thursday in response to the longtime president's call for a show of solidarity.
His challengers, mainly youths camped out at a renamed "Change Square" near Sanaa University, have also urged demonstrators to take to the streets.
The standoff has been going on for two months but it escalated on March 18 when 52 protesters were gunned down in Sanaa by Saleh loyalists.
The Foreign Office said it urged "all parties in Yemen to exercise the utmost restraint and take all steps necessary to defuse tension on the ground.
"We call on all parties to make urgent progress in implementing much needed political and economic reform."