Sectors | Tue Dec 4, 2012 8:57pm IST

Yemen starts repairing oil pipeline after deal with tribesmen

SANAA Dec 4 (Reuters) - Yemen began repairing its main Maarib oil pipeline and power lines on Tuesday after reaching a deal with tribesmen to stop attacking the country's infrastructure, an official said.

The Yemeni army launched an offensive on Sunday against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly blowing up the main oil export pipeline and attacking power lines.

"According to an agreement between Maarib's governor and tribal leaders, the military campaign was halted and the technical teams were allowed in to fix the oil pipeline and electricity lines," the official told Reuters.

Some 30 tanks and other armoured vehicles took part in the army offensive against tribal fighters in the Wadi Obaida area of the central oil-producing province of Maarib.

Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have repeatedly been sabotaged by Islamist militants or disgruntled tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

Before the attacks, the Maarib pipeline had typically carried 110,000 barrels a day (bpd) of light crude to the Ras Isa export terminal on the Red Sea coast.

A long closure of the pipeline last year forced the country's largest refinery at Aden to shut, leaving the small producer dependent on imports and fuel donations from Saudi Arabia.

Separately, two civilians were killed and three others were injured in clashes between the army and southern secessionists from a group known as al-Hirak, in the town of al-Jalila in the southern province of Dalea, a local official and residents said.

Many southerners demand restoration of the state, which merged with North Yemen in 1990, and complain that northerners have discriminated against them and usurped their resources. Most of Yemen's fast-declining oil reserves are in the south. The central government denies having any discriminatory policy. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; writing by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; editing by Sami Aboudi and Jane Baird)

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