Southern Yemeni leaders said they were seceding from Yemen and declared a separate state today, four years after northern and southern Yemen united.
The announcement was made in a statement read on Aden television and radio by Yemeni Vice President Ali Salim Bidh, the country's southern leader.
Bidh said the new separate state would be called the Democratic Republic of Yemen and that general elections would be held a year from now.
Hundreds of Aden's 350,000 residents went out into the streets to celebrate, some of them firing Kalashnikov rifles into the air in jubilation.
Bidh also appealed to Arab and foreign governments to recognize the new state, which he said would adhere to Arab League and U.N. conventions.
The southern decision was made more than two weeks after a civil war broke out in the southern Arabian peninsula because of differences between Bidh and President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a northerner, over the balance of power in the country they merged May 22, 1990.
Bidh had ruled the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south and Saleh the Yemen Arab Republic in the north until they created the Republic of Yemen, the united state of 13 million people, about 2.4 million of them in the south.
Shortly before the southern decision was announced today, northern Yemen declared a unilateral cease-fire in the civil war starting at midnight, and officials in Sana, the capital, repeated a demand for the surrender of Bidh and officials in his Yemen Socialist Party.
The southerners have largely been on the defensive, but the northerners still face stiff resistance as they close in on Aden, the old southern capital.
Diplomats in Aden said the secession option had been under discussion in Aden since Monday in meetings of the Yemen Socialist Party and five small opposition political parties from north and south.
They said southern envoys and officials had been discussing possible secession with several Arab states that they suspected might be willing to recognize a new South Yemen.
Bidh said that the decision followed "continuous efforts to make unity work" and accused northerners of political sabotage, suppression, supporting Muslim fundamentalist movements and exporting terrorism.
He said the new state would continue to aim for unity.