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Nations Pledge Help for Yemen for Development, to Fight Extremism

Britain, the United States and other countries have pledged support for Yemen to help economic and social development as part of a wider effort to fight growing Islamic extremism and the threat of terrorism from the country. The promises came on Wednesday during a meeting in London.

The message from the meeting was clear - the international community will stand by Yemen to help with social and economic development, as the most effective way to fight extremism.

Britain hosted the meeting; ministers and delegates from other Western European countries as well as from Russia, the United States, the Middle East and international organizations attended.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said countries realize that a multi-pronged approach is needed.

"The assault on Yemen's problems cannot begin and end with its security challenges and its counter-terrorism strategy," he said. "In tackling terrorism, it is vital to tackle its root causes. In Yemen's case, these are manifold - economic, social and political."

Yemen faces internal instability, a population explosion, high illiteracy, dwindling oil and water supplies, and poverty - all of which, experts say, make it an ideal breeding ground for extremists.

Yemen has been a source of concern since the suicide bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in October 2000, while it was docked in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors were killed in the al-Qaida organized attack.

International focus has again shifted to Yemen after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. The young Nigerian reportedly received explosives and his orders from al-Qaida linked terrorists in Yemen.

At the London conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said events in Yemen are a security concern in the United States. "The situation in Yemen is of particular concern," she said. "It does truly affect all of us in a very direct way."

Clinton said the United States is committed to helping. "We believe bringing unity and stability to Yemen is an urgent national security priority of ours," she said.

Yemen's people deserve better, she said, and urged Yemen's government to do more to implement political and economic reforms, including in the way of reconciliation, good governance, human rights and gender equality.

Another meeting on Yemen is scheduled for late February in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.