Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 04:57 am (KSA) 01:57 am (GMT)

Yemen President says determined to fight Qaeda

On Friday several nations vowed support for Yemen as it faces threats (File)
On Friday several nations vowed support for Yemen as it faces threats (File)

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Sunday he is determined to fight al-Qaeda, which has become increasingly active in his country, in a speech marking the anniversary of the 1962 revolution.

"We are committed to the war on terror... which has harmed our economy, the reputation of our religion and country," Saleh said in the speech, which was published by state news agency Saba.

"Al-Qaeda elements... have attacked the interests of our people and our homeland... hindered the development and affected tourism and investment in our country," said Saleh.

 Al-Qaeda elements... have attacked the interests of our people and our homeland... hindered the development and affected tourism and investment in our country 
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

"We have no choice but to face their danger and overcome it by all means," he added.

Sunday marks the anniversary of the 26 September, 1962 revolution which brought down the imamate, a form of clerical rule, and which saw Yemen proclaimed a republic.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, has witnessed an upsurge of activity by his network's local branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), in past months.

The Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks, including in Loder at the end of August, when three days of intense fighting with the security forces killed at least 33 people.

More recently, Yemeni soldiers regained control of the southern city of Huta on Friday after it had been taken over by al-Qaeda militants on Sept. 18, officials said.

The military's reported advances in the south were followed by a setback in Sanaa, however, when two unidentified gunmen ambushed a bus taking intelligence agents to work at dawn on Saturday, injuring 10 of them.

Sanaa has intensified its operations against al-Qaeda since AQAP claimed responsibility for a botched attack on U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day last year.

International support

 No friend of Yemen can stand by when the economy of that state comes close to collapse ... Or when the authority of the government is challenged by extremism, by violence, by crime or by corruption 
British Foreign Secretary William Hague

On Friday donor nations voiced support for Yemen as the poor country struggles to contain the rising al-Qaeda threat and tackle other challenges that have made it a top world security concern.

"No friend of Yemen can stand by when the economy of that state comes close to collapse ... Or when the authority of the government is challenged by extremism, by violence, by crime or by corruption," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told a meeting, held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Officials expressed worry about mounting radicalism in Yemen, whose massive population of jobless youths is seen as a ready target for extremists, who are staging increasingly bold attacks on international and domestic targets.

"Yemen's security and stability and progress matters not just to Yemenis ... making sure this is not a country al-Qaeda can infiltrate with impunity," British junior foreign minister Alistair Burt said after the meeting.

The government in Sanaa faces a host of conflicts, including an intermittent six-year conflict with Shiite rebels in the north and mounting unrest by southern separatists.

The government is working to cement a shaky truce it made this year with northern Shiite rebels to end a war that has raged on and off since 2004.

One of several problems

 Yemen's security and stability and progress matters not just to Yemenis ... making sure this is not a country al-Qaeda can infiltrate with impunity 
British junior foreign minister Alistair Burt

But security is only one of a number of entrenched problems in Yemen, where only about 60 percent of adults are literate and water scarcity poses an existential threat.

People who attended a closed portion of the meeting said foreign officials praised Yemen for implementing some economic and political reforms, but said much more was required.

A 2006 donor conference resulted in pledges of about $5.7 billion for Yemen, but only a modest share of those funds have been disbursed, officials said.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told the meeting that his country could not afford to wait for pledged economic aid or spend more time simply discussing international support for Yemen.

Yet donors note that a big part of the delay has been due to Yemen's inability to effectively channel such vast sums into immature state institutions and concerns about corruption.

Yemen, whose oil reserves the International Monetary Fund says will run out within a decade, has introduced some fuel subsidy reforms as it struggles to tame high fiscal deficits, and it is working to reform its tax system.

Donors will hold another meeting of the "Friends of Yemen" group, and another conference on economic aid, in Riyadh early next year.

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