Monday, January 4, 2010
US warns of global Yemen threat
The US has offered to support the Yemeni government's fight against al-Qaeda, saying instability in the country could have "global implications".
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said on Monday that the US sees "global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al-Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region".
But Yemen's foreign minister ruled out direct US military intervention to tackle al-Qaeda fighters operating in his country.
"Yemen is going to deal with terrorism in its own way, out of its own interests and therefore I don't think it will counter fire," Abu Baker al-Qirbi told Al Jazeera on Monday.
Al-Qirbi said Yemen was happy to receive "development assistance" but not military intervention, adding: "The negative impact on Yemen is if there is direct intervention of the US and this is not the case."
In her first comments since the attempted attack, she said the US administration was "not satisfied" with the Christmas Day incident.
Clinton told reporters after a meeting with Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the visiting Qatar prime minister, that she would discuss additional steps with other US administration members this week.
"[We] will be meeting with the president tomorrow to go over our international reviews, to hear what others in our government also have concluded and to take whatever additional steps are necessary."
She said a meeting on Yemen planned to be held in London this month would give the international community a chance to assess both the threat in the Middle East country and the world's response.
Clinton also said the US embassy in Yemen – which closed on Sunday along with the British, Spanish and French embassies due to unspecified al-Qaeda threats – would only reopen when security conditions permit.
Yemen is battling to control an al-Qaeda movement estimated to have hundreds of fighters in the country, as well as so-called Houthi rebels in the north of the country and a secessionist movement in the south.
Al-Qirbi told Al Jazeera that Yemen needed development aid to improve social conditions in the country.
"Economic growth is a necessity for Yemen because one of the main challenges facing Yemen is to improve the standards of living, create jobs and fight poverty because these are the elements that contribute to extremism in Yemen.
"Our first priority is development assistance and then we need also assistance to build and expand our counter-terrorism units," he said.
"I know the Americans have committed more money for our counter-terrorism units and that is one area we need support in."
Over the weekend, Barack Obama, the US president, accused al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula of arming and training a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a US airliner bound for the city of Detroit on Christmas Day.
The Yemen-based group, which claims to be affiliated with Osama bin Laden's organisation, had earlier claimed responsibility for the failed attack and called for strikes on embassies in Yemen.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said the failed attack was in response to a series of raids in western Yemen, which the group says were carried out by US warplanes.
Washington and Sanaa have denied the claims.
The intensification of security efforts in Sanaa comes just days after the British government announced plans to join the US in funding an "anti-terrorist" force in Yemen.
Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, has said he would hold a meeting in London on January 28 to discuss how to counter radicalisation in Yemen.
On Monday at least two suspected al-Qaeda members were killed during a raid near Sanaa, and up to three other suspects wounded during the operation in the Arhab district, around 30km northeast of the capital.
Security officials told The Associated Press news agency the raid was not connected to the threats that prompted the Western embassy closures.
The Japanese embassy has also suspended consular activities and Yemeni authorities have increased security in the city.
John Brennan, the US president's assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism, warned on Sunday that "there are indications that al-Qaeda is planning an attack against a target in Sanaa".
Hillary Mann-Leverett, a former US diplomat who worked at the national security council, told Al Jazeera that Yemen had long been a troubled state plagued by poverty and violence.
"The most important thing here for geopolitics globally and within the region, is that Yemen has been a fractured, desperately poor and deeply fractious country that all the countries in the region and the superpowers have used as a battleground," she said.
But she also said the Obama administration's policies towards the region were partially to blame for threats against Washington and its allies.
"We have given the Saudis a green light to militarily intervene in Yemen and to characterise what is happening in Yemen as a Sunni-Shia war [with] the Saudis there to defend the Sunnis against craven Shia," she said.
"We're paying the price today of outsourcing our policy to the Saudis."
"We see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al-Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region"
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies