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World powers to boost Yemen to better fight terror

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[January 27, 2010]  LONDON (AP) -- World powers are looking to bolster Yemen's faltering economy and tackle a rising threat from al-Qaida there in the wake of the unsuccessful Christmas Day airline attack in the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in London for a hurriedly convened meeting Wednesday with delegates from the Middle East, Russia and Europe over the risk posed by Yemen following the botched Detroit bombing.

InsuranceDelegates will discuss fears that declining oil revenues are weakening Yemen's ability to deliver basic services -- stirring dissent and allowing terrorists a firmer foothold in the country.

The U.S. and Britain may also push for more control over counterterrorism operations inside Yemen, though the country's foreign minister insists his government won't support the permanent presence of international troops.

"It's not a failed state, but it's an incredibly fragile state and that's why this meeting is so important -- we want to get in there early to offer assistance and prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state," British Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis said.

Delegates at the two-hour talks in London -- which include the World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- won't pledge any new funds, but instead will offer to help Yemen spend $5 billion donated in 2006, most of which remains untouched.

Intelligence officials are concerned about the ability of al-Qaida affiliates to operate freely in some parts of Yemen, and say Western Muslims are traveling there to seek out radical clerics and terrorists. Last week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned of the dangers posed by the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group and the U.K. raised its terror alert status, partly in response to the threat.

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies have been participating in joint operations for some time with Yemeni troops, and the two countries are discussing a new aviation unit to help bolster Yemen's counterterrorism forces, a Yemeni official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, said while the intelligence sharing has been critical, the Yemeni military badly needs military equipment.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that joint operations have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaida affiliate. Other officials told The Associated Press the number may be closer to four.

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The operations were approved by President Barack Obama, begun six weeks ago and involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command. U.S. officials have said repeatedly that American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but provide intelligence, surveillance, planning and other weapons assistance.

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-Yemeni Islamic cleric, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaida leaders. He was not the focus of the strike and was not killed.

Al-Awlaki has been connected with the alleged perpetrators of two recent attacks on American soil: the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at the Fort Hood, Texas, army base that killed 13 people and the Christmas airliner bombing attempt.


Yemen's foreign minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said his nation needs helicopters and logistical support, but won't allow the U.S. to establish permanent bases there. "Why do we need outside soldiers to fight when we can do the fight ourselves?" he told BBC radio.

Officials said nations at Wednesday's meeting will launch a new international organization -- the Friends of Yemen -- to help the country identify aid priorities. It will include the Group of Eight countries, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and other neighboring nations.

[Associated Press; By DAVID STRINGER]

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in London and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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