Britain concerned over Saada clashes [Archives:2007/1042/Local News]

April 16 2007

SANA'A, April 14 ) Peter Gooderham, Director of Middle East & North Africa in the United Kingdom's Foreign & Commonwealth Office, said that his country is concerned about the situation in Sa'ada province, north Yemen, where government forces are still combating followers of AlHouthi, a Shiite leader.

We are concerned about the current fighting in Saada and we keep in contact with the Yemeni government, Mr. Gooderham said, denying offering any advice to Yemen in this regard. “It is an internal Yemeni issue,” he said in an announcement came on Wednesday in an interview with Al-Ayyam newspaper and newsyemen website.

This is the first visit for a British official to Yemen, where he met with top officials including the president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the prime minister, the interior minister, and the minister of foreign affairs.

Actually, the Saada issue has raised concern over the humanitarian situation in the province, where thousands of displaced families live in bad conditions. Also, contagious diseases, namely cholera, have been spreading in the area as a result of dead bodies that have been left to rot in streets. The government has also been reportedly accused of lying personnel landmines in its fighting with the rebels. In fact, politicians have been already warned of internationalizing the Saada issue.

The British Ambassador to Yemen, Mr. Michael Geofford, said that his country is concerned over the armament sources in Saada fighting. “Arms worry Britain and Yemen as well. We try to help Yemen technically through training coastguard forces on fighting attempts to smuggle weapons,” he said, adding that the problem of arms is seriously big for Yemen and the region. In fact, reports indicate that there are 60 million pieces of arms throughout Yemen's governorates. Additionally, they pointed out that Yemen has a relation to the smuggling of weapons to the Islamic courts in Somalia, which Yemen denied.