SANAA, North Yemen -- South Yemen ended 23 years of Marxist rule Tuesday and united with its more prosperous neighbor North Yemen, forming the new Yemeni Arab Republic.
A ceremony marked the creation of the new state in the South Yemen capital of Aden and the legislative bodies of the two Gulf states elected All Abdullah Saleh of North Yemen as president in a joint session.
State-run Radio Sanaa said the new president hoisted the red, white and black flag of the new state and proclaimed the birth of a unified Yemen after a guard fired a 21-gun salute.
South Yemen, once a major trading center for spice and silk, gained independence from Britain in 1967 while North Yemen became independent in 1918 after years of Ottoman and Turkish rule. The combined country in the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula will have a population of 11 million.
The unification was hailed by the United States, but there were lingering fears on both sides that rival Islamic and Marxist influences might cause future problems for the new state.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said the United States welcomed the announcement on unification and was studying the implications of the action, including whether to remove South Yemen from the State Department's list of states that support terrorism.
South Yemen was the only Arab state to adopt a Marxist system of government, while North Yemen has been considered a conservative state where tribes still hold wide influence in the country's affairs.