US to propose Yemen fund to support development and reduce poverty

Plan will be discussed at meeting of the Friends of Yemen group of nations scheduled to meet in New York next week.

SANA'A // The United States is to propose the establishment of an international fund to support development in Yemen when a group of donor countries meet next week. The fund would focus on reducing poverty and aiding development in the country, the state-run Saba news agency reported. It will be discussed at a meeting of the Friends of Yemen group of nations scheduled to meet in New York on September 24.

Andrew Baukol, the US treasury deputy assistant secretary for Africa and the Middle East, made the announcement of the fund during a meeting in Sana'a on Wednesday attended by Abu Bakr al Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister, and ambassadors from the countries engaged in the group. The US has increased humanitarian and development aid along with military support to Yemen as it seeks to tackle the increasing al Qa'eda presence in the country.

Last week, the state department counterterrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin said the US has placed unprecedented priority on Yemen, describing a two-pronged programme to root out terrorists while also targeting the "incubators for extremism" - such as poverty, weak governance and corruption. He said the US is on track to provide as much as US$300 million (Dh1.1bn) this year. About half of that is for military equipment and training.

Earlier this month, US officials said that Central Command, which is in charge of US forces across the region from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan, was seeking $1.2bn over the next five years to improve Yemeni security forces. Next week's New York meeting, which is chaired by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UK, will discuss supporting the Yemen economy. Tim Torlot, the British ambassador to Yemen, said the issue of security also would be a priority as would the question of a national dialogue between all political forces.

The British government called for a donor conference in London in January after a Nigerian man who had spent time in Yemen tried to detonate a suicide bomb on a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for his attempt, saying it was to avenge US attacks on militants in Yemen. The Friends of Yemen group was formed by the London meeting in an attempt to thwart Yemen's descent into chaos. The country faces an intermittent insurgency in the north, a growing separatist movement in the south and a surge of al Qa'eda attacks in addition to severe economic hardships.

Yesterday, two policemen were killed in an attack by suspected al Qa'eda militants in the southern province of Shabwah. Armed men attacked the officers with gunfire and hand grenades in the village of Hawtah in Maifa district, according to local and tribal sources. In the southern city of Loder, thousands of Yemenis demonstrated against an army "blockade", where clashes with troops killed dozens last month, a member of the separatist Southern Movement said.

Armed militants were deployed in the city's streets to prevent Yemeni forces from hampering the protest, tribal and local sources said. The protesters were allowed to enter the city on foot after security inspections. They raised banners with pictures of the exiled south Yemeni leader Ali Salem al Baid. * With additional reporting by The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse