Yemen promised aid from West, Middle East
Western and Middle Eastern ministers met in London Wednesday to offer support for Yemen's faltering economy and aid the Arabian country in its fight against the terrorist group al-Qaeda.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the meeting after a Yemen-based wing of al-Qaeda said it was behind the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt on a U.S.-bound plane with over 300 people aboard.
Ministers from about 20 nations said in a joint declaration after the two-hour meeting that the issues facing Yemen could affect the stability of the Arabian Peninsula. In addition to al-Qaeda, Yemen is also grappling with a Shia insurgency in the country's north, and a secessionist movement in the south.
"To help the people of Yemen, we — the international community — must do more," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "The government of Yemen must also do more. There must be a partnership if it is to have a succesful outcome."
The delegates urged Yemen to push for a ceasefire with the Shia rebels.
The delegates didn't pledge new funds, but instead will help direct $5 billion donated following a 2006 conference, much of which remains untouched.
Economy slides with oil revenues
Declining oil revenues have hurt Yemen's ability to deliver services to its people, stirring dissent and making it easier for militants to recruit among the country's poor and disillusioned.
Yemen's government also has little control over large areas of the mountainous country, allowing well-armed tribes to exert control over regions with little interference from the capital.
In a meeting last week in Ottawa, Yemen's Foreign Minister Abubakar al-Qirbi said his country was seeking support for logistics and training as it deals with "radicalization" and extremists.
The United States has sent nearly $70 million in military aid and training to Yemeni forces last year to help in their fight to root out al-Qaeda, which has made substantial gains in the country in recent years.
'Incredibly fragile state'
British Foreign Minister Ivan Lewis said it is important to assist Yemen before it was too late.
"It's not a failed state, but it's an incredibly fragile state and that's why this meeting is so important — we want to get in there early to offer assistance and prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state with all the consequences we know only too well," Lewis said in a video posted to the Foreign Ministry's website.
Officials said about 20 countries at the talks will launch a new international organization — the Friends of Yemen — to help the country carry out political and economic reforms.
With files from The Associated Press