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Homeland Security

Britain Hosts Meeting on Yemen With Underlying Focus on Terrorism

Sonja Pace | London 27 January 2010

Britain is hosting a one-day meeting on Yemen with ministers and senior officials from Yemen, Europe, the Gulf states and others. The underlying focus of the gathering is the issue of terrorism.

Going into the meeting, there was much talk about what the international community could do to support economic and social development, and political stability in Yemen.

But the underlying focus is how to deal with the rising threat of extremism and al-Qaida linked terrorists operating from Yemen and recruiting others to carry out attacks.

Yemen has been a source of concern since the suicide bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in October 2000, while it was docked at the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors were killed in the al-Qaida organized attack.

International focus has again shifted to Yemen after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day. He reportedly received the explosives and his orders from al-Qaida linked terrorists in Yemen.

Speaking at London's Chatham House research center, Yemen Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Abdallah al-Qirbi said a comprehensive assistance program is vital to his country.

"Yemen's capabilities to fight radicalization and this is part and parcel actually of the development program," he said.

But, the minister said Yemen's sovereignty is paramount. "There should be a clear declaration that this meeting is to support Yemen's unity and Yemen's stability," he said.

The minister warned that any action by the international community must not be seen as an attempt to interfere in Yemen's internal affairs.

Director of the Yemen Forum at Chatham House, Ginny Hill says the London conference should address the many problems facing Yemen.

"I think any initiatives that are taken on counter-terrorism at the London meeting need to be embedded in a much broader strategy which includes the political issues, the economic issues, and the broader security issues that currently are a problem for Yemen," said Hill.

Analysts say that given the anti-Western and particularly anti-American sentiment in Yemen, the West must tread lightly. To do otherwise, they say, will only boost support for the extremists.

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