Exclusive: Qaeda benefits from Yemen woes, PM says

By Samia Nakhoul

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Al Qaeda has capitalized on poverty, political splits and conflict in Yemen but the outside world has shown a commitment to tackling these problems through economic support, the prime minister said.

Major powers rallied behind Yemen in talks in London on Wednesday in a drive to resolve the economic and social problems which are creating a breeding ground for al Qaeda, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Megawar told Reuters.

“This conference has given a great momentum to the Yemeni problem. The whole world is now conscious about the importance of supporting Yemen,” Megawar said in an interview.

“We have presented a detailed diagnosis of the problems facing Yemen that are boosting terrorism and extremism,” the premier said. “We have stated clearly that Yemen is in dire need of economic support.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, anxious to prevent Yemen becoming a failed state, called the London talks after a Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate said it was behind an abortive bid to blow up a U.S.-bound plane with 300 people on board.

Megawar said al Qaeda was exploiting political divisions in Yemen and the government’s conflict with Shi’ite rebels in the north, and with separatists in the south.

“We as the government of Yemen have decided that we need to chase and eradicate al Qaeda and the campaign is continuing in a big way,” Megawar said.

“Al Qaeda is a global organization. It has no nation or land. It is present wherever the environment allows it to prosper and it is benefiting from the circumstances of Yemen.”

“In a climate of poverty and unemployment of course terrorism and extremism will flourish,” he said, adding:

“The biggest problem of all in Yemen is the economy and development and this problem has produced widespread poverty affecting 42 percent of the population. Unemployment is 35 percent and this is a big number.”

Megawar said major powers, neighboring donor countries and international institutions taking part in the meeting showed they were committed to helping Yemen to find solutions.

SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC REFORM

A joint statement at the end of the two-hour London meeting pledged to help Yemen and underlined the threat posed to neighbors including Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer.

Yemen had “very weak infrastructure,” only 42 percent of the population had electricity and 26 percent water (piped to their houses). “These indicators reflect the size of the problem,” the prime minister said.

On calls at the talks for Yemen to enact reforms more quickly, he said: “Yemen is implementing its social and economic reforms which it started in 1995 but the process is not easy.”

So far Yemen had switched from state control to a market economy, had lifted subsidies on many products, and was in the process of lifting subsidies related to oil and gas, as well as fighting corruption, he said.

Asked how Yemen would resolve conflicts with Shi’ite Muslim rebels in the north and the secessionists in the south, he said:

“We consider what is happening in the north is a revolt against the constitution and the law. How can you solve a problem with insurgents who have revolted against the state and who have taken up arms against the government and who are seeking to have their own autonomy?”

On the southern separatist movement, he said:

“There are voices demanding separation and this is not new after the unification of Yemen in 1990 they declared the separatist movement. There has been no change in their position. They have an agenda as they lost power and have not recovered.”

At the meeting, Yemen said it would push ahead with political reform and start talks with the International Monetary Fund to boost its economy.

“We look to Yemen to enact reforms and continue to combat corruption,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the talks, adding: “And if conflict and violence go unaddressed, they will undermine the political reform and reconciliation that are essential to Yemen’s progress.”

Keen to harness U.S. support and funding, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 67, has sought to paint his internal foes as all somehow linked to al Qaeda.

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(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul; Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Exclusive: Qaeda benefits from Yemen woes, PM says