U.S. froze record Yemen aid package in February: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States froze its largest aid package for Yemen in February after popular protests broke out against the Yemeni president, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

“The first installment of the aid package, worth a potential $1 billion or more over several years, was set to be rolled out in February, marking the White House’s largest bid at securing President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s allegiance in its battle against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” it said.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the paper said the proposed package included up to $200 million in counter-terrorism support this fiscal year, up from $155 million in fiscal 2010, as well as a nearly equal amount for development aid.

Saleh is clinging to power after weeks of mass demonstrations demanding an end to his 32-year rule. A U.S. official told Reuters this week the United States was trying to “turn up the heat” on Saleh to come to terms with the opposition, which is demanding his departure.

An unnamed Obama administration official said last week al Qaeda and other groups were exploiting the political turmoil in Yemen.

“The Obama administration’s suspension of the new aid put a spotlight on the unraveling of a troubled anti-terror alliance with a man who has ruled Yemen like a family fiefdom for three decades,” the Journal said.

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Matthew Jones)

U.S. froze record Yemen aid package in February: report