Last updated: 9 August, 2011

UN warns of growing Al-Qaeda threat in Yemen

The UN Security Council expressed concern Tuesday that Al-Qaeda could exploit the power vacuum in Yemen to gain an even greater foothold in the country.

The 15-nation council urged followers of ailing president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition to quickly settle Yemen’s fate because of the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the country.

The UN body gave strong support to efforts by the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council to end the Yemen crisis.

UN envoy Jamal Benomar reaffirmed warnings that the Yemen economy could collapse in a briefing to the council after his latest mission to the Red Sea nation.

Council members highlighted their “grave concern” over the economic and humanitarian deterioration in Yemen.

“They were deeply concerned at the worsening security situation, including the threat from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” said a statement released after the meeting.

Yemen has been gripped by political turmoil since an uprising against the 33-year-old rule of Saleh, now recovering from bomb blast wounds, erupted in January. Hundreds have died in battles between security forces and protesters, and between security forces and Al-Qaeda fighters.

The Security Council urged all sides to allow “humanitarian” access to Yemen and warned over increasingly severe shortages of basic supplies in the country as well as growing damage to key infrastructure.

The body “called on all parties to move forward urgently an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition,” the statement said.

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador Philip Parham hailed the second UN statement on Yemen in two months as “evidence of the growing sense of alarm of the international community at events in Yemen.”

“The continuing crisis is setting Yemen back by years. Key food costs have dramatically increased, and coupled with fuel shortages, this is having a severe impact on the Yemeni population and humanitarian operations,” Parham said, highlighting European support for the GCC efforts to persuade Saleh to stand down.

The Yemeni opposition vying to oust Saleh said it would elect an umbrella “national council” on August 17 aiming to take over power.