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Yemen forces clash with protesters for fifth day

ADEN, Yemen, April 3 (Reuters) - Yemeni forces clashed with protesters in the country's south for a fifth day on Thursday, despite a security crackdown on the oil-producing region.

At least 14 people have been wounded in the protests by youths in southern districts demanding army jobs, residents say. They said youths also attacked offices and businesses and television footage showed them burning tyres to block roads.

The unrest started in the area of Radfan in the central southern al-Dalea province on Sunday and spread the next day to the province of Lahj, which adjoins the province of Aden, home to the Arab country's key port and refinery.

There were no reports of any protests in Aden or disruption to oil output elsewhere.

A resident said hundreds of people gathered for the latest demonstration, but security forces acted fast. "They ended the protest quickly, but four people were wounded."

Around 100 people including several members of opposition parties, have been arrested since the protests broke out, opposition politicians said.

Security forces with armoured personnel carriers have been deployed to restore order in the affected areas.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh chaired a meeting of the National Defence Council on Thursday and ordered legal action against protesters involved in vandalism, the official Saba news agency reported.

"The council denounced these actions that violate law and order and seek to disturb ... social peace," it reported, without giving a number of the people detained.

Lawlessness is widespread in parts of Yemen, where disgruntled tribesmen have kidnapped Western tourists or blown up oil installations to press for better living conditions.

Residents have said one of at least 14 people wounded since the violent protests started had died. The official Saba news agency said on Wednesday there were no fatalities.

Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries outside Africa and poverty and unemployment are fuelling discontent in the south, which produces up to 80 percent of the country's oil.

Truckers said on Thursday a main road between the central capital Sanaa to Aden in the south was open after government forces blocked it on Wednesday.

State jobs or joining the army are among the main sources of employment in the country, where more than half the workforce is in the agricultural sector.

A 2007 World Bank report noted domestic production of crude oil had declined steadily since 2001 and one diplomat estimated unemployment at 17 percent.

The price of wheat has doubled since February, while rice and vegetable oil have gone up 20 percent in two months. (Reporting by Mohamed Mukhashef; writing by Inal Ersan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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