Hague: Friends of Yemen must help eradicate al-Qaeda

International donors must back Yemen's efforts to give al-Qaeda 'nowhere to hide,' said the British Foreign Secretary

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International donors must back Yemen's efforts to give al-Qaeda "nowhere to hide," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told a conference Tuesday as the government launched a new offensive against the militants.

But the "Friends of Yemen" meeting in London said the government must push through political and economic reforms if it wants donors to speed up payments of aid to the impoverished Arabian peninsula country.

The meeting, the group's seventh since 2010, came as the Yemeni army suffered setbacks in a new offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's remaining strongholds in the south following a U.S.-backed air offensive last week.

"We must all continue to support stability and to counter terrorism, including through reform of the security sector," Hague said in his opening remarks to the conference.

"We have to be clear that the international community will not tolerate acts of violence or other actions intended to derail Yemen's transition, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula must have nowhere to hide."

Fighting on Tuesday left 18 Yemeni soldiers and 12 militants dead, sources said, in a setback to hopes of striking an early blow against the group following Yemeni and US drone strikes that killed 60 militants last week.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- a merger of the network's Yemeni and Saudi branches -- is regarded by Washington as its most dangerous franchise and has been subjected to an intensifying drone war this year.

The jihadists took advantage of a 2011 uprising that forced veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power to seize large swathes of the south and east, from which the army has struggled to evict them.

With attacks spreading even to the capital Sanaa, including an attempted abduction of a German diplomat on Monday, donor governments are increasingly keen to help the fragile government of President Abdrabuh Mansur.

But the Friends of Yemen, which comprises 39 countries, said that more reforms were needed.

In their closing statement, they said that the Yemeni government had to "take decisions on critical areas of reform to increase the pace of pledge disbursement" of international aid.

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