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Saudi calls to aid Yemen at donors meeting

Riyadh calls for a $11 billion aid package for neighbouring Gulf state, during the opening of a Yemen donors meeting in the kingdom

AFP , Tuesday 4 Sep 2012
Yemen Donor Meeting
Yemen's Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa walks with Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf upon their arrival for an international donor meeting in Riyadh, September 4, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
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Saudi Arabia on Tuesday called for aid to help its impoverished neighbour Yemen which needs $11 billion to weather a tough political transition triggered by Arab Spring protests.

"Yemen is facing many economic problems ... the kingdom hopes to see more contributions," said Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf as he opened a Yemen donors meeting in Riyadh held at the level of experts and ambassadors.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia had pledged $3.25 billion in aid at a meeting of Friends of Yemen held in Riyadh in May during which a total of $4 billion were pledged.

Yemen's Planning and International Cooperation Minister, Mohammed al-Saadi, said last week that his country needs $11 billion in foreign aid.

"Our needs are $14 billion. The Yemeni government can cover some part, but there remains a gap of $11 billion," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia promised to deposit $1 billion in Yemen's central bank to support its currency.

The World Bank said it hoped to raise $6 billion at the donors meeting to support the recovery plan put together by the transition government.

"We hope to raise US $6 billion during the donor meeting to cover the transition period lasting until the middle of 2014," said Wael Zakout, the World Bank's country manager for Yemen in a paper published Saturday on the bank's website.

"We will hold another donor conference after 2014 to raise the rest of the needed funds," he said.

The donors meeting should address several issues, including reconstruction, humanitarian needs and ways to strengthen security and stability in Yemen, Saadi told reporters in Sanaa.

It will also cover political dialogue, preparations for general polls and basic infrastructure needs, he said, adding that some countries will pledge aid at the Riyadh meeting, while others might come forward in New York, at the Friends of Yemen meeting next month.

Yemen is undergoing a political transition after a year-long uprising unseated veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and left the economy of the Arabian peninsula's poorest country in shambles.

But so far only 43 percent of $455 million earlier asked for by the UN and other organisations has been received for humanitarian aid for Yemen.

The Friends of Yemen forum was set up at an international conference in London in January 2010 to help Sanaa combat a resurgent threat from Al-Qaeda in the ancestral homeland of its slain leader, Osama bin Laden, as well as other security challenges.

The IMF says the 2011 political crisis has taken a serious toll on the economy, which it said contracted by 10.5 percent, while inflation soared to 17.6 percent.

Aid agencies say nearly half of Yemen's 10-million population do not have enough food to eat, and one in three children is severely malnourished.

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