North and South Yemen merged their impoverished nations into a unified Republic of Yemen today, and the new country stood on the brink of oil wealth.
Gen. Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of the unified state, raised the new country’s red, white and black flag atop the port-side presidential council building.
The Aden Coast Guard fired several cannon shots, and ships hooted their horns as the flag went up.
The united Republic of Yemen has newly discovered oil field reserves estimated unofficially at 2 billion barrels.
At a later rally, attended by 2,000 people, Saleh said the united nation would remain committed to all treaties that either of the Yemens had concluded.
“The Republic of Yemen will be a factor for stability and security in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region and a strong bastion for the Arab nations, the Arab League and joint Arab action,” he said.
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat was the only Arab leader to attend the ceremony in Aden.
The 48-year-old Saleh, president of North Yemen since 1978, had been elected to head the five-man council that will rule the new state at a meeting of senior leaders from the two Yemens.
The council named Heider Attas, the president of formerly Marxist South Yemen, prime minister and asked him to form a Cabinet.
It was the second such union between two Arab states in this century. In the 1950s, Egypt and Syria joined as the United Arab Republic, but the merger collapsed after three years because of internal squabbling.
The new state binds 11 million people--9 million from the north and 2 million from the south.
South Yemen became the Arab world’s only avowedly Marxist state after it gained independence from Britain in 1971. But it began to reform as democratic changes swept through the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.