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'Friends of Yemen' Pledge Their Political Support


Nations looking to help stabilize Yemen so al-Qaida and other terrorist groups will not develop a lasting stronghold there, met Friday in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The so-called Friends of Yemen group voiced their support for the security and stability of the Arabian Peninsula nation.

Yemen is among the poorest countries in the world. It has declining oil and water resources, a high population growth rate and massive unemployment. A weak central government, rampant corruption and feuding clans have led to the country's becoming a safe haven for terrorists. But it has also led the international community to take notice and take action.

British Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan said after Friday's meeting that Yemen's stability is one of the most pressing international issues right now.

"If we can stop Yemen becoming at its most extreme a new Afghanistan or a Somalia or a collapsing state, then I think we will have done the world a favor," he said.

He said the expanding population and 20 percent unemployment rate, as well as lagging education and health systems, must be addressed in order to stem the possibility of radicalization of a disgruntled population.

Britain's foreign secretary co-hosted Friday's ministerial level session along with Saudi Arabia's deputy foreign minister and Yemen's foreign minister.

Minister Duncan said the Friends have very clear objectives.

"So what this process is for is to press the Yemenis to improve their governance, to decentralize, to remove corruption, improve their human rights, but also to help them sort out what it is at the moment a pretty perilous economic mess.," he said.

In a statement, the Friends said they would explore new long-term funding mechanisms to help bolster Yemen's Development Plan, including the idea of establishing a development fund for the country.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host another meeting to review progress early next year.

There are 22 countries in the Friends of Yemen group, including the United States, and countries of the European Union and Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League. The United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank are also a part of the Group.

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