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UK withdraws embassy officials from Yemen

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 7:23 PM

LONDON -- The United Kingdom all but closed its embassy in Yemen Wednesday, urging Britons to leave the country as soon as possible to avoid getting caught up in the country's deepening unrest.

Britain's Foreign Office said it was leaving only a skeleton staff at its embassy in Yemen, calling on Britons still living in Yemen to "leave now" as the government would find it very difficult to offer them consular assistance if the situation worsened.

Yemen has seen increasingly bloody violence as its embattled leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, clings to power amid a wave of revolt sweeping the Arab world. Earlier Wednesday Saleh escalated his confrontation with protesters threatening to topple him, taking on emergency powers which suspend the constitution, bar protests and give security forces far-reaching powers of arrest.

The opposition has called the vote illegal and vowed to press on with its campaign, setting the stage for further violence in a country which has already seen dozens of demonstrators killed in clashes with authorities.

Britain has been advising its citizens to leave the country for nearly two weeks, but the Foreign Office said it was making Wednesday's announcement in light of "the increasing seriousness of the situation."

In a statement, it called on all parties in Yemen "to exercise the utmost restraint and take all steps necessary to defuse this situation."

© 2011 The Associated Press