One person dies in southern Yemen, protests persist

SANAA, July 8 (Reuters) - One person has been killed in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces in southern Yemen where separatist sentiment is strong, government officials and opposition figures said on Wednesday.

The demonstrator died on Tuesday in Hadramout, in southern Yemen, a local opposition leader told Reuters.

People in the south, home to most of Yemen's oil facilities, have long complained that northerners abuse a unity agreement to grab their resources and discriminate against them.

Secessionist demonstrations have persisted over several days in different parts of the south, the latest taking place in the region of Dalea on Wednesday, according to local officials.

In the southern port of city of Aden dozens of people were detained for questioning but then released during protests on Tuesday.

They were calling for the release of three local leaders of the secessionist Peaceful Southern Movement, who were detained by the authorities on Monday, government and opposition sources told Reuters.

In May, several demonstrators were killed in clashes with security forces that lasted a number of days, prompting a rare call by the United States for an end to the violence.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has said it fears instability in Yemen could allow it to become a launch pad for a revival of a 2003-2006 campaign by al Qaeda militants to topple the U.S.-allied ruling Al Saud family.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh took power in the former North Yemen in 1978 and has been president since the merger with the south in 1990, winning another seven-year term in a 2006 election.

He backed U.S. moves to crack down on al Qaeda, including inside Yemen, after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States in 2001.

Demonstrations over army pensions turned violent in Aden in 2007. Job protests in the south degenerated into riots last year. Some southern leaders have openly called for secession.

Insecurity in Yemen has affected international companies developing the oil and gas sector, while attacks on foreigners -- including kidnappings by disgruntled tribesmen -- have hit tourism, Western diplomats say. (Reporting by Mohammed Sudam in Sanaa and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Louise Ireland)