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Hillary Clinton among those praising Yemen's efforts against al-Qaeda

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010; A11

LONDON -- Yemen pledged Wednesday to implement broad political and economic reforms in exchange for a package of long-term development and security assistance from countries concerned that it could become a permanent base for international terrorist operations.

After a meeting here of more than two dozen governments and international financial institutions that declared themselves "Friends of Yemen," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Yemen's "recent efforts to take action against al-Qaeda," which have had extensive U.S. support.

The United States has flooded Yemen with intelligence and military resources in recent months and has allowed attacks against insurgent encampments by U.S. guided missiles. Clinton said that "nobody raised" concerns about the increased U.S. involvement during the conference. "Yemen is looking for help," she said, "and not just from the United States."

However, she said, "the government of Yemen must also do more."

The meeting, attended by foreign ministers from Yemen's Persian Gulf neighbors as well as Russia, China and leading NATO members, was proposed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after the Christmas Day bombing attempt against a U.S. airliner sponsored by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The failed attack set off a worldwide reassessment of the threat posed by the Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliate. Yemen has asked the international community to provide up to $4 billion annually.

The Yemen gathering was added to a larger conference to take place here Thursday on Afghanistan, during which Afghan President Hamid Karzai will present his plans to steer Taliban fighters away from counterinsurgency, expand the Afghan military and police forces, improve governance and combat corruption.

The United States expects the more than 60 governments who will attend to endorse President Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy and to pledge additional financial and military support.

Outside the Yemen and Afghanistan conference halls, Clinton is holding meetings with members of the P5 +1 negotiating group (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany) on Iran. The group has failed to reach an agreement on imposing a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran following its lack of response to an offer to provide enriched uranium for energy production. The six countries have demanded Iran stop its own enrichment program, which they say -- and Iran denies -- is designed to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.

Russian resistance to new sanctions, which the administration hopes to introduce at the Security Council next month, has softened recently. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reportedly said Wednesday, after a private session with Clinton, that "the world can't wait forever" for an Iranian response.

Clinton will have a more difficult time Thursday when she meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, whose government has strongly resisted new sanctions. Asked how she would change China's mind, Clinton told reporters traveling with her from Washington: "I don't think there is a mind to change. I think that there is an openness. I think there is an awareness of the importance of the international community standing together with respect to Iran."

The administration has said it will persist in its diplomatic outreach to Iran. But "we have reached the reluctant conclusion that we have to go forward on the pressure side of our approach," a State Department official said.

After the closed-door Yemen meeting, Clinton said that Yemen had been "brutally honest about the problems it faces," including widespread illiteracy and unemployment, high population growth and a dwindling water supply. But she and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made clear that they expect the Yemeni government to proceed with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and to adhere to a 10-point program of reforms introduced by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government.

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