US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told international leaders meeting in London to look into ways of helping Yemen fight al Qaeda that both the world and Yemen "must do more" to battle rising terrorism in the region.
AFP - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday that Yemen and the world "must do more" as talks started on tackling Al-Qaeda militants in a state seen as a new frontier in the war against terror.
Ministers and officials from 21 Western and Arab countries were discussing security as well as wider economic and political problems facing Yemen, the poorest state in the Arab world.
"To help the people of Yemen, we -- the international community -- can and must do more. And so must the Yemeni government," Clinton said in prepared remarks released ahead of the meeting.
"By any measure, the combined challenges confronting Yemen are daunting."
The meeting, chaired by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, was called after a foiled Christmas Day attack on a US airliner by a Nigerian man thought to have been trained in Yemen.
Britain has warned that unless Yemen is stabilised, it could become a "failed state" like its lawless neighbour Somalia.
"We are here because we know that Yemen faces a crisis... we want to prevent that crisis," said Miliband in his opening comments.
"But we have a limited opportunity to turn the tide. We need to work together, with the government of Yemen."
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said on the eve of the meeting that his country wanted "a commitment on the development (and) the building of our capacities against radicalisation".
But the shortness of the talks -- they will last for just two hours, ahead of a bigger conference in London on Afghanistan Thursday -- provoked accusations from some British lawmakers that it is a gimmick.
Miliband said Sunday that Yemen "has been rising on our radar for the last 18 months to two years", but its troubles sprang to prominence at Christmas, when a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to detonate explosives in his underwear on a plane approaching the US city of Detroit.
US President Barack Obama has accused Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen -- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- of training, equipping and directing the suspect. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the plot in an audio message broadcast Sunday, and vowed further strikes would follow.
Yemen has ruled out allowing the US to set up military bases on its soil to fight the extremist threat, with Al-Qirbi telling the BBC Tuesday that such a move was "inconceivable" and against the country's constitution.
It stepped up its own campaign earlier this month with a military crackdown against Al-Qaeda, thought to be operating out of mountains east of Sanaa, and has stopped granting visas on arrival at airports to try to prevent militants from coming in.
But the US military and intelligence agencies have been involved in secret operations with Yemeni troops who have killed six regional Al-Qaeda leaders in recent weeks, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Although US troops do not take part in raids in Yemen, they plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and ammunition, the Post said, adding that the US was also sharing sensitive intelligence with Yemeni forces.
Yemen's many problems -- including corruption, water shortages and a dwindling oil industry that provides three-quarters of government revenues -- should be viewed as a package, according to academics.
"It's essential that the international community comes together with a collective approach and embeds any counter-terrorist measures within a whole of government approach," said Ginny Hill, an associate fellow at foreign affairs think tank Chatham House in London.
"Any solution for Yemen requires a regional response which includes... Yemen's relationships with Somalia."
Date created : 2010-01-27