US lifts ban on arms sales [Archives:2004/770/Front Page]

September 6 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The United States announced last week that the Bush administration has lifted a 14-year ban on selling arms to Yemen.
The announcement came from Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Lincoln Bloomfield, when he met President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a last Wednesday.
The ban on the sale of weapons, or any military equipment, resulted from Yemen's position following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Government officials said that the United States clearing the sale of arms will help Yemen continue its fight against terrorism.
“This will assist Yemen to fight against terrorism,” Gazem Alaghbari, Head of the Europe Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Yemen Times. “We will concentrate on using the equipment to help fight terrorism.”
Yemen joined the United States in fighting terrorism soon after the attacks on American soil on September 11th 2001. Yemen authorities have since rounded up hundreds of terrorist suspects, including key members of the international Al-Qaeda network.
Six terrorist suspects are on trial charged with being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole at the port of Aden in 2000. Fifteen others were recently convicted of taking part in terrorist activities, including the attack on the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Mukalla in 2002.
For nearly three months, the Yemeni government has been battling with a rebel group headed by Muslim cleric Hussein Al-Houthi in the Saada province, 240 km (150 miles) north of Sana'a near the border with Saudi Arabia. Al-Houthi is accused of inciting violence and terrorism against Western interests in Yemen – especially American.
Before it teamed up with the United States to fight terror, Yemen, which is the ancestral home of Al-Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden, was perceived as a safe haven for terrorists.
Alaghbari said, “The United States and Yemen have worked well together fighting terrorism over the last few years. Bloomfield told me after his meeting with President Saleh, that the United States is very pleased with the results of Yemen's fight against terrorism and that Yemen has a good understanding of fighting terror.”
According to government officials, up until now, the United States has provided roughly $100 million to support the fight against terrorism, mostly for technical equipment and training. Alaghbari said that now that the ban has been lifted, Yemen will start by concentrating on obtaining spare parts for military equipment.
Tom Casey, Spokesman for the US State Department, said that the delivery of spare parts for C-130 cargo planes was cleared last week, which came soon after the sales of spare parts for F-5 fighter jets was allowed.
The United States delivered nine gunboats to Yemen last spring to assist the newly established Yemeni Coast Guard, to protect the country's coastline and ports. Two months ago, the United States decided that its warships could refuel at the port of Aden due to improved security. US warships stopped arriving at the port after the bombing attack on USS Cole four years ago.
Last April, President Saleh held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that included furthering arms deals between the countries. After the talks, Russian military officials said that Yemen will be supplied with anti-aircraft missile systems, helicopters and fighter jets.
Russia began delivering military equipment to Yemen in 2000 when Russia sent 31 modern T-80 tanks. In 2001, the two countries signed a contract for the shipment of MiG-29 fighter planes, the first batch of which was delivered in 2002.