Gulf ministers in emergency Yemen talks

RIYADH (AFP) - Yemen's Gulf Arab neighbours held an extraordinary ministerial meeting in Riyadh on Saturday to discuss developments in the restive country where a Shi'ite militia has seized power, an AFP photographer reported.

The meeting comes as two of the Gulf Cooperation Council's six member nations, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, announced that they had temporarily suspended their embassies' operations in Sanaa and evacuated staff for security reasons.

Similar measures have been taken this week by the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the Netherlands and Spain.

Yemen, which has long been a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, is strategically located next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and on the key shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf.

The impoverished state has descended into chaos since the Shi'ite militia, known as Huthis, seized Sanaa in September.

Last month, they seized the presidential palace, prompting Western-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to resign.

"Yemen faces the most dangerous challenges since the 2011 revolution, forcing us to act promptly to help its people and prevent the country from descending into chaos and internal fighting threatening its unity and safety," Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said in an opening statement.

Qatar holds the rotating presidency of the GCC which also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

The situation in Yemen will affect "stability and security in the whole region as well as the world", Attiyah warned.

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by the United States as the network's deadliest branch and which claimed a Jan 7 attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed.

The country has seen a rise in unrest since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising forced former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in February 2012.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that Yemen is falling apart and called for Hadi to be reinstated.