The new leaders of South Yemen said today that the government succeeding deposed president Ali Nasser Mohammed will try to improve relations with the West and neighboring states in the Persian Gulf region while remaining closely allied to the Soviet Union.
In their first interviews with reporters since fierce factional fighting ended a week ago, acting President Haidar Abu Bakr Attas and Salim Salih Mohammed, secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Party, emphasized that South Yemen's foreign policy will not be changed radically and indicated that they did not look for ties with the United States to improve immediately.
"We will respect all the international agreements we have signed," Attas, who was prime minister in the old government, said.
Mohammed said: "Our foreign policy will remain the same. Not only will we continue these policies, but we will try our best to develop relations with western countries."
Mohammed is one of the few surviving members of the 11-man Politburo to stay on after nearly two weeks of heavy fighting between rival party and tribal factions in this Marxist state.
Former president Mohammed had begun to steer South Yemen in the direction of better relations with its conservative, anticommunist neighbors and had sought to attract western investment -- a direction in which the new leaders said they want to continue.
"We welcome good relations with all countries that respect our national sovereignty and don't interfere in our internal affairs," Attas said in response to one of several written questions submitted in advance by four western journalists.
"However, the United States does not respect our national sovereignty, interferes in our domestic affairs and stands against the interests of the Arab nations and our central just cause, the Palestinian issue."
South Yemen broke diplomatic relations with the United States in 1969, two years after winning independence from Britain, and has since become the Soviet Union's closest ally in the Middle East.
Although most Soviet nationals were evacuated along with other foreigners after the fighting erupted Jan. 13, Moscow still maintains a sizable diplomatic and military presence.
Both officials emphasized that South Yemen's close ties to the Soviet Union were not shaken by the recent fighting, but rather are likely to be strengthened by Aden's need to depend even more heavily on Moscow due to the huge economic loss caused by the war.