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Saudi says will give $3.25 billion aid to Yemen

Kingdom says it will give impoverished neighbour a cash infusion to support development projects

AFP, Wednesday 23 May 2012
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Saudi Arabia will give its impoverished neighbour Yemen aid worth $3.25 billion, the kingdom's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a meeting in Riyadh Wednesday, urging other nations to take similar steps.

"To ensure Yemen's security and stability, the kingdom will provide $3.25 billion to support development projects there which will be agreed upon with the Yemeni side," he said at the opening of the Friends of Yemen meeting.
 
"The Yemeni government is exerting courageous efforts, but without the help of its brothers and friends, Yemen will not be able to solve the crises it is facing," said Prince Saud.
 
Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa pleaded at the meeting for aid for Yemen which was rocked by an uprising last year that forced former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in February.
 
"The hope is in the political and economic support needed to overcome the transitional period and put an end to the budget deficit," Basindawa said.
 
"We are confident that you realise the danger and sensitivity of the situation in Yemen which needs lots and lots to recover... We seek your help, don't fail us."
 
Yemen is expected to ask donors for about $10 billion in urgent aid at the one-day meeting.
 
So far only 43 per cent of $455 million earlier asked by UN and other partner organisations have been received for humanitarian aid for Yemen, with ongoing conflicts in the country's northern and southern provinces only exacerbating the crisis.
 
Prince Saud said two agreements "worth $105 million will be signed in the health and power sectors" on Wednesday, adding that Riyadh had also recently provided support to Yemen's petrol and power sectors.
 
Basindawa said his government is planning development projects that needed funds and were part of a 2012-2013 programme aimed at reviving the economy and stabilising the "security, political and social situation" across Yemen.
 
"The plan includes several projects in the fields of economy, politics, humanitarian assistance and reforms... We count on brothers and friends in financing it," said Basindawa.
 
Seven aid groups on Wednesday warned international diplomats that Yemen was on the brink of a "catastrophic food crisis" and urged them to bolster efforts to salvage the situation.
 
"Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food crisis," the seven agencies which include Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children, said in a joint statement released ahead of Wednesday's meeting.
 
At least 10 million people, some 44 per cent of the population, do not get "enough food to eat", they said, adding that one in three children was "severely malnourished."
 
Yemeni Planning Minister Mohammed al-Saadi told AFP Wednesday that there "is an urgent humanitarian need estimated at $470 million to help more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Abyan and Saada" provinces in the country's north and south.
 
He said investment projects "important as they are, can be postponed, but not humanitarian aid."
 
In the last two months alone, aid agencies say more than 95,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, bringing the total number of displaced to more than half a million.
 
Twenty-seven countries, including the six oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states, the United States and Britain, as well as international organisations, are attending the Riyadh meeting.
 
The meeting is the first since Yemen embarked on a transitional period after the election on 21 February of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to replace Saleh, who had ruled the country for 33 years.
 
In addition to poverty, Hadi's rule is challenged by a growing threat of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- the network's Yemen branch -- considered by the United States as the most active branch of the global terror network.
 
On Monday, a suicide bomber dressed as a soldier, detonated his explosives in an army battalion killing 96 soldiers in a brutal attack in central Sanaa. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.
 
"The appalling explosion that took place in Yemen and left hundreds martyred and wounded needs utmost attention from you to Yemen," Basindawa highlighted at Wednesday's meeting.
 
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.
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