DUBAI (Reuters) - Aden airport is expected to reopen fully for commercial traffic within weeks, Yemen's information minister said, a move that would shore up confidence in the ability of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government to control the volatile city.
The southern port has been gripped by violence since Hadi supporters, backed by Saudi-led coalition forces, seized it from Iranian-allied Houthi forces in July. The airport has operated only sporadically since then, amid constant security fears.
The minister, Mohammed Qobati, told Reuters the airport was being guarded by local fighters recently incorporated into a new Yemeni army which Hadi had been rebuilding since July, together with troops from the United Arab Emirates.
He denied reports that the UAE had withdrawn its forces from the airport, saying there was only a routine rotation of forces.
"We have done preliminary refurbishment work on the airport from outside, and now we are working on maintenance work inside the terminal," Qobati told Reuters by telephone.
"We expect the work to be completed within weeks and we hope that commercial flights would return then," he added.
The UAE is a member of an Arab alliance fighting the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in a bid to restore Hadi's internationally recognized government.
The United Nations says nearly 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which began after the Houthis advanced on Aden, where Hadi had been based. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by William Maclean and Andrew Heavens)