Middle East

Britain to host 'Friends of Yemen' summit in March

A boy looks at police jumping from their truck as they escort suspected Al-Qaeda militants into a state security appeal court in Sanaa, Yemen, January 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

LONDON: Britain is to host a meeting of the international "Friends of Yemen" group on March 7 to discuss the "dire" security situation in the impoverished nation, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.

Representatives of more than 35 countries and organisations will attend the meeting of the group, which was set up in 2010 to help Yemen combat Al-Qaeda and other security problems.

Hague said that Yemen was "at a crossroads" following the fall of its strongman leader Abdullah Ali Saleh last February and amid ongoing unrest linked to Al-Qaeda.

"Now is the time for action and I look to the meeting in March in the hope that real progress can be made for the future of all Yemenis and the security of the wider region," he said.

"President (Abdrabuh Mansur) Hadi is working hard to implement an inclusive National Dialogue Conference and put in place preparations for elections in 2014, but progress is slow.

"The challenges from spoilers and the dire security situation are ever present distractions."

Yemen's national dialogue conference, a key element of the UN-brokered transition deal signed last year, was set up to discuss constitutional reforms to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.

It was scheduled to take place in November but has faced delays after southern secessionists initially refused to join the talks.

At the last Friends of Yemen meeting in New York in September, global donors announced $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros) of aid, bringing the total aid pledged to Yemen in 2012 to $7.9 billion.

Hague said the Friends of Yemen were keen to see this aid "turned into action and real progress on political transition".

The London meeting will be co-chaired by Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

UN agencies said on Tuesday that Yemen needs an additional $716 million in 2013.

Some 13 million people from Yemen's 24 million population do not have access to safe water and sanitation, while 10.5 million lack food security, according to UN figures.





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