- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

Western and Arab countries on Wednesday made an unprecedented long-term commitment to Yemen’s security and development, aimed not only at fighting al Qaeda, but also at battling Yemen’s poverty.

Although a London meeting of foreign ministers from about 20 countries was not a pledging forum, they agreed to gather again for a donors conference in Saudi Arabia next month.

“The challenges in Yemen are growing and, if not addressed, risk threatening the stability of the country and broader region,” the ministers said in a joint statement after the talks.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Yemen’s instability and the prospect of it becoming a permanent safe haven for al Qaeda pose “an urgent national security priority” to the United States. She also said that neither the Yemeni government, nor its neighbors and other foreign countries have done enough to address those challenges.

“To help the people of Yemen, we — the international community — must do more,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters in London. “The government of Yemen must also do more. This must be a partnership if it is to have a successful outcome.”

Washington has been concerned about Yemen since the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in a Yemeni port, but it has spent only about $2 million in development assistance in Yemen between 2001 and 2006, according to a recent report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The urgently organized conference was prompted by the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by a 23-year-old Nigerian, who U.S. officials say trained with the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Diplomats said the country’s weak government is unable to deal with the terrorist threat alone, while also facing a Shi’ite insurgency in the north and a secessionist drive in the south.

“It’s been a common feature of every contribution that we have heard today that the assault on Yemen’s problems cannot begin and end with its security challenges and its counterterrorism strategy,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who hosted the London meeting.

“In tackling terrorism, it is vital to tackle its root causes. In Yemen’s case, these are manifold — economic, social and political,” he said.

For years, the Yemeni government has resisted international pressure to implement political and economic reforms and resolve internal conflicts. The joint declaration said Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujur’s government “recognizes the urgent need to address these issues, which will need sustained and focused engagement.”

The participants in the London talks founded a new group called Friends of Yemen. The donors conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, will take place on Feb. 27 and 28, the British Foreign Office said. London hosted a similar gathering in 2006 that raised about $5 billion, but only a small part of it was disbursed, mainly because of concerns that they money might be misused.

“By listening and responding to the needs of people on the ground, and by tackling the human security dimension, the international community, together with the government and civil society of Yemen, can go a long way to addressing the sources of hard security challenges,” said Sarah E. Mendelson, director of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Yemen’s share of publicly disclosed U.S. counterterrorism funding has grown sharply in recent years, from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year, and is expected to increase even more this year. Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, has proposed more than doubling military assistance for Yemen to about $150 million.

Also on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia said its forces had driven Yemeni rebels out of the border region between the two countries, suggesting that the three-month conflict along the mountainous frontier may be winding down.

The announcement by Assistant Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan came a day after the rebels themselves announced a unilateral cease-fire, the Associated Press reported.

Yemen’s Hawthi rebels have been battling theYemeni government since 2004 over neglect and discrimination, but when they crossed the border and killed two guards in November, Saudi Arabia launched a massive counteroffensive using artillery and air power.

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