UPDATE 1-London talks aim to bolster Yemen’s al Qaeda fight

* World, regional powers to back development, reform efforts

* West wants to stop Yemen becoming a “failed state”

(Adds Washington Post report)

By Adrian Croft

LONDON, Jan 27 (BestGrowthStock) – A meeting of Western and Gulf
foreign ministers on Wednesday will aim to bolster Yemen’s fight
against al Qaeda by helping it to tackle the poverty that can
create a breeding ground for militants.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the meeting after
a Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate said it was behind a failed
attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound plane with 300 people on board.

The Dec. 25 attack drove home how al Qaeda could threaten
Western interests from Yemen and highlighted the risk that it
could become a failed state, compounding security challenges
already posed by lawless Somalia just across the Gulf of Aden.

Wednesday’s London talks, which bring together the Group of
Eight world powers, Yemen’s neighbours in the Gulf Cooperation
Council, and Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, is designed to support
Yemen, while pushing for economic development and reform.

The European Union, United Nations, World Bank and
International Monetary Fund (IMF) will also be represented.

“Yemen is not a failed state but it’s an incredibly fragile
state,” British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said in a
video on a government website.

“We want to get in there early to offer assistance and to
prevent Yemen becoming a failed state,” he said.

The meeting, scheduled to start at 1600 GMT and last just
two hours, would focus on helping the Yemeni government move its
economy forward, creating jobs and improving health, education
and law and order, he said.

SECRET OPERATIONS

U.S. President Barack Obama approved secret joint U.S.
military and intelligence operations with Yemeni troops that
began six weeks ago and killed six regional al Qaeda leaders,
the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

U.S. advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen but help
plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons, it said.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told the BBC this
week that Yemen needed logistical support to fight al Qaeda but
would not allow foreign covert operations on its territory.

Western delegates will also be pushing Yemen to press ahead
with economic reforms and to tackle corruption.

Yemen has declared war on al Qaeda under pressure from
Washington and Saudi Arabia, its oil-producing neighbour and its
main aid backer along with the United States.

Apart from al Qaeda, Yemen faces a Shi’ite Muslim revolt in
the north, a secessionist movement in the south, water
shortages, failing oil income and weak state control.

About 42 percent of Yemen’s 23 million people live on less
than $2 a day, the World Bank says. The population is set to
double in 20 years, but jobs are already scarce and water
resources are collapsing.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head the U.S.
delegation. Many of the ministers will also take part in a major
international conference on Afghanistan on Thursday.

Britain raised its terrorism threat level after the failed
Detroit attack to “severe”, meaning an attack in Britain is
considered highly likely, and has suspended direct flights from
Yemen. Security will be intense for this week’s meetings.

Qirbi told Reuters in an interview Yemen risked becoming a
failed state unless the world helped to develop its economy to
give young people alternatives to a path of Islamist
radicalisation. [ID:nLDE60P198]

Qirbi said earlier this month Yemen needed about $4 billion
a year in economic aid, but the London meeting is not intended
to be an aid-pledging conference.

A donors’ meeting in London in 2006 pledged about $5 billion
for Yemen but only a small portion has been disbursed, partly
because of concerns about how the money would be spent.

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UPDATE 1-London talks aim to bolster Yemen’s al Qaeda fight