UPDATE 1-Yemen shuts international airports due to strike -officials

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 | 3:32 AM ET

(Adds details of dispute, scene at airports)

SANAA, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Yemen shut its international airports on Monday after workers at its civil aviation authority went on strike, officials at the transport ministry and airports said.

The strike was due to a dispute with the finance ministry over the independence of the aviation authority, an official at the transport ministry said. The finance ministry froze the authority's funds, he said.

"The strike is ongoing until our demands are met," the official said, declining to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly to media. Officials at Sanaa, Aden and Mukalla airports confirmed the shutdown.

Chaos hit the Sanaa and Aden airports with stranded passengers asked to return home, witnesses said.

"Some passengers protested and tried to storm the airport," one witness at Sanaa airport said.

The aviation authority falls under the supervision of the transport ministry. The dispute started when the finance ministry decided to appoint a financial official at the authority, which says its finances are independent.

The freezing of the aviation authority's funds has prevented it from paying workers' wages and other operating costs, a statement by the authority's workers union said.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Andrew Torchia)