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Former US Ambassador to Yemen: Anti-terror Coalition Strong

A U.S. diplomat and counter-terrorist expert says the international coalition in the war on terrorism is strong.

Barbara Bodine was ambassador to Yemen in October last year when terrorists attacked the USS Cole in the port of Aden. 17 U.S. sailors were killed and dozens of others injured. Ms. Bodine says recent news of the terror attacks in New York and Washington evoked a similar response from people in Yemen. "I had many Yemeni friends who called me after September 11," she said. "They were crying on the phone as hysterically as any American. The same thing happened after the Cole. There was a very large outpouring of public outrage over the attack and sympathy for the Americans."

Ms. Bodine was deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion and occupation in 1990. She later helped coordinate the anti-terrorism office in the State Department. From 1997 until this year, she was ambassador to Yemen. She is now diplomat in residence at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Ms. Bodine recently shared her thoughts with a group of journalists in a briefing arranged by the State Department.

She says her Yemeni friends are outraged by the attacks against civilians. She says many in the Middle East are repulsed by Osama bin Laden's claim to act in the name of religion.

Ms. Bodine says, partly for that reason, there is broad support in the Arab world for the U.S. response to events of September 11. "At the same time, there are areas and issues where we have very strong disagreements," said Ms. Bodine. "It's not a secret that there are people within the Middle East and elsewhere who are concerned about how long the bombing campaign will go on and the question of civilian casualties."

The former ambassador notes there are also objections to the U.S. position on the Palestinian issue and questions over continued sanctions against Iraq.

But Ms. Bodine says U.S. officials and their oversees counterparts, including those in the Arab world, face a common foe in dealing with terrorism, and their mutual goals override their differences.

She says international cooperation to combat terrorist groups began in 1983, after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. She says cooperation intensified through the 1990's and, today, the coalition is informal but healthy. "It is not that structured, it is not that formal," she said. "And it is not that issue-specific. If it is going to be successful, it is going to be an informal community effort that is going to be ongoing the same way that there is an international community on other transnational problems, such as international organized crime."

The former U.S. ambassador to Yemen says nations are working together to target facilities used by terrorists to forge passports, to track terrorist finances, and to break up money-laundering schemes.

Ms. Bodine says the public has a problem understanding the war on terrorism because much of it takes place behind the scenes. She says people seldom learn about attacks that are deterred, but the failures in the counter-terrorist effort are painfully evident.