British says military assets deployed near Yemen
Britain on Monday confirmed the deployment of military assets near Yemen but did not verify reports that ships were on standby in the Gulf to evacuate its nationals.
"As part of routine deployment UK military assets are in the region, although we are not prepared to comment further on their exact operational tasking," a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said.
Around 80 marines were on board naval support ship RFA Fort Victoria, according to the BBC, while Sky News reported that the RFA Argus was also in the area.
The MoD would not confirm whether an evacuation was planned and repeated Foreign Secretary William Hague's plea for all British nationals to leave Yemen immediately by commercial means.
In a statement delivered on Friday, Hague said it was "extremely unlikely" the British government would be able to evacuate its nationals given the volatile situation.
Britain first advised nationals to leave on March 12, and a dramatic escalation of hostilities led Hague to issue Friday's strongly-worded warning.
Protesters on Monday demanded a swift power transfer from veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh as his deputy said the president would return within days after undergoing surgery in Riyadh to treat blast injuries inflicted by dissident tribesmen.
Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, has faced nationwide protests against his rule for the past four months.
More than 200 demonstrators have been killed since the protests erupted, according to an AFP tally based on reports from medics.
The Argus has a dual role as a "Primary Casualty Receiving Facility (PCRF)", comprising two operating theatres and 100 beds, and as an aviation training facility, while the Fort Victoria serves as a stores ship and tanker.
Both vessels are part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a civilian-manned fleet which provides support for the Royal Navy.
© 2011 AFP