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January 5, 10

NEWS / Embassy in Yemen Will Re-open When Security Conditions Permit

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States closed its embassy in Yemen on January 3 in response to ongoing threats made by the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and she welcomes an upcoming conference on the country that will discuss ways of providing more economic and security assistance to Yemen.

Speaking with Qatar’s prime minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Jabr al-Thani, in Washington January 4, Clinton said the threats from AQAP “are aimed at American interests in Yemen,” and predate the attempted December 25, 2009, attack on a Detroit-bound airliner by a Nigerian man who had trained at a camp inside Yemen.

“We review our security conditions constantly and will make a decision on re-opening the embassy when the security conditions permit,” Clinton said.

The United Kingdom and France have also announced decisions to close their embassies in the capital Sana’a due to security threats.

The secretary said the Obama administration “commends Yemen for the recent actions it has taken to disrupt the AQAP networks, and we are reiterating our commitment to assist in those efforts.”

She said instability in Yemen directly affects its neighbors in the Middle East, and “we see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al-Qaida in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region.”

Clinton said a meeting on economic and security assistance for Yemen, scheduled to take place in London at the end of January, presents an opportunity for the country’s neighbors and others in the international community to “play a role in helping to stabilize Yemen [and] to come together and discuss steps that each of us can take individually and collectively.”

She said the conflicts in the country are growing worse “with more players involved now,” and said it is “time for the international community to make it clear to Yemen that there are expectations and conditions on our continuing support for the government so that they can take actions which will have a better chance to provide that peace and stability to the people of Yemen and the region.”

According to State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, President Obama asked for a significant increase in U.S. assistance to Yemen, bringing the total for the 2010 fiscal year, which began in October 2009, to $52.5 million in direct assistance, of which $40.3 million is directed to development and security assistance.

“Although final determinations have yet to be made, we expect the total fiscal year 2010 assistance to be as much as $63 million,” Kelly said. “This amount represents a 56 percent increase over fiscal year 2009, and a 225 percent increase over fiscal year 2008 levels.”

He added that the U.S. assistance figures for Yemen do not include the $67 million it was authorized during 2009 under the so-called Section 1206 funds that are used to help the government’s counterterrorism and border-control efforts.

Along with providing assistance against terrorism, the State Department has funded programs for Yemenis “focused on strengthening independent media and civic participation and also programs focusing on religious freedom,” Kelly said.

The spokesman said there is a “very difficult balance that has to be maintained” over decisions to close U.S. embassies due to security threats.

“It’s important, especially at this particular time in our relationship, that we maintain diplomatic relations with the government of Yemen,” he said. “We also have business to conduct with the people of Yemen,” in terms of issuing travel visas, promoting U.S. business interests and other exchanges and contacts.

At the same time, the facility was closed due to a specific threat. “When you open an embassy to the public, you also expose members of the public to the danger,” Kelly said. Such exposure extends as well to local guard forces, he said.


Tags: secretary of state,


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