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Published: Thursday December 26, 2013 MYT 6:10:11 PM
Updated: Thursday December 26, 2013 MYT 6:11:01 PM

Bombing of Yemen's main oil pipeline halts crude flows - officials

SANAA (Reuters) - Tribesmen bombed Yemen's main oil pipeline and it will take several days to repair it and resume crude pumping, oil and local officials said.

The attack, in the Wadi Obaida area of the central oil-producing province of Maarib, halted oil flows from the Maarib fields to the Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea, they said.

Yemen, which relies on crude exports to finance up to 70 percent of budget spending, has suffered frequent bombings of its main pipeline in recent years.

Disgruntled tribesmen carry out such attacks to pressure the government to provide jobs, settle land disputes, or free relatives from prison.

Such lawlessness is also a global concern - particularly for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies - because of Yemen's strategic position next to oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because is home to one of al Qaeda's most active wings.

The latest bombing happened late on Wednesday. It was the seventh attack on the pipeline this month and took place hours after repairs were completed following a previous bombing.

Before a spate of attacks which began in 2011, the 270-mile Maarib pipeline carried around 110,000 barrels per day to Ras Isa.

Islamist rebels took advantage of the chaos of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's overthrow after months of mass protests in 2011 to seize several southern cities, but were driven out in a government offensive a year later aided by U.S. drone strikes.

A national dialogue designed to put Yemen on track to democratic elections has been held back by a growing secessionist movement in the south and sectarian clashes between Sunni Salafis and Shi'ite Houthi fighters in the north.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Raya Atallah; Editing by Rania El Gamal and Pravin Char)

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