05 Jan 2010 07:06:45 GMT
* U.S. embassy in Yemen reopens after two-day closure * British, French missions resume work, closed to public (Adds details, background)
SANAA, Jan 5 (Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Yemen reopened on Tuesday, an embassy official said, a day after Yemeni forces killed two al Qaeda militants they said were behind a threat that forced U.S. and European missions to close. “We are reopened,” a U.S. embassy official said.
The embassy had closed on Sunday in response to what it said were threats from al Qaeda. Washington says the group is trying to use Yemen as a base for attacks far beyond the region. Yemen was thrust into the foreground of the U.S.-led war against Islamist militants after a Yemen-based wing of al Qaeda said it was behind a Christmas Day bomb attempt on a U.S.-bound plane. A number of western embassies closed their doors this week due to security fears. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said fighting in Yemen was a threat to regional and global stability.
The British and French embassies resumed operations on Tuesday but remained closed to the public, diplomats at those missions said. Yemeni forces killed at least two al Qaeda militants on Monday they said were behind the threat that forced the foreign embassies to close, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Yemen was “ready to confront and defeat anyone thinking of harming the country and its security”. Yemen had already stepped up security on its coastline to block entry to militants from reaching its shores from Somalia, and said it was monitoring al Qaeda militants in two provinces.
The Yemeni government is fighting a Shi’ite Muslim rebellion in the north and separatist unrest in the south. The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of Yemen’s instability to spread its operations to the neighbouring kingdom, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and beyond.
Yemen itself produces a small amount of oil. Placed strategically on the Arabian Peninsula’s southern rim, Yemen, the poorest Arab country, has shrinking oil reserves and faces a water crisis. Its population of 23 million is expected to double in the next 20 years. (Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; editing by Thomas Atkins/David Stamp)