President Saleh in Saudi Arabia for discussions: Militant infiltration debated [Archives:2004/713/Front Page]

February 19 2004

RIYADH, Feb 17 (Reuters) – The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Yemen met on Tuesday in a bid to resolve tensions over a barrier being built by Saudi Arabia on their common border aimed at curbing a flow of weapons fuelling militant violence.
More than 50 people were killed in suicide bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh last year blamed on Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's militant Islamist al Qaeda network. Much of the militant arsenal is believed to have been spirited across the Yemeni border.
The official Saudi Press Agency said Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh met King Fahd and de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah in Riyadh for discussions.
It gave no details but sources close to the talks said they focused on efforts to overcome tension over the barrier which conservative Saudi Arabia says must stem an influx of weapons.
Diplomats say Yemen claims the barrier violates a 2000 border accord which set up a 20 km (13 mile) demilitarised zone on either side of the border reserved for livestock grazing.
Ministers, defence and security officials from both sides were continuing discussions late into the night. “So far the talks are going well,” a source from one delegation said, without giving details.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who finally agreed the exact line of their border less than four years ago after decades of dispute, have played down the latest discord.
“Cooperation between the two countries will be reinforced in all spheres including security,” Saleh said in a statement on arrival in Riyadh.
The head of Saudi Arabia's border guard Talal Anqawi said last week the barrier, a raised, concrete-filled pipeline which he called a security “screen”, was being built on Saudi soil but did not specify exactly where.
He also dismissed comparisons in some Yemeni opposition newspapers between the Saudi barrier and Israel's barrier through the West Bank, which Arab states have condemned.
“What is being constructed inside our borders with Yemen is a sort of screen…which aims to prevent infiltration and smuggling,” he said. “It does not resemble a wall in any way.” Yemeni sources have said the barrier extends for around 75 km along the 1,300 km border.