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Gulf Arabs must help Yemen, Pakistan over militants
Reuters Souhail Karam
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Gulf Arab countries should help Pakistan and Yemen bolster security in the face of rising militant violence that could spread their way, the European Union's anti-terrorism chief said Monday.
Gulf authorities should also tighten controls on possible transfers of funds to militant groups through Pakistani and Yemeni expatriates living in the oil-exporting region, Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters.
"It's a question of knowing if we can together work with Gulf countries to try and avoiding Pakistan and Yemen becoming what we commonly call 'failed states' and gradually safe havens for al Qaeda organizations," he said on the sidelines of a conference on terror financing.
"We are witnessing a regionalisation of al Qaeda, in North Africa, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula," he said, referring to various groups using al Qaeda's name. "It's urgent that we help Pakistan and Yemen strengthen their anti-terrorism apparatus."
Al Qaeda's Taliban allies have used their base in ethnic Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border to take more territory inside Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state which Western powers and their regional allies fear is collapsing.
Yemen is battling a new wave of al Qaeda attacks over the past year as well as secessionist sentiment in the south which led to clashes this week that provoked a rare call by the United States for the parties to act to keep Yemen united.
Sanaa also faces a Zaydi Shi'ite rebellion in the north and rebellious tribes who reject central authority, forming fertile ground for militant groups to operate.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has said it fears instability in Yemen could allow it to become a launchpad for a revival of a 2003-2006 campaign by al Qaeda militants to topple the U.S.-allied ruling Al Saud family.
De Kerchove said Gulf countries needed to do more to combat money laundering that could benefit militants.
As of June 2007, travellers to and from Saudi Arabia are required to declare cash amounts, transferable monetary instruments or precious metals exceeding $16,000.
"There is a difference between fixing a threshold and checking that this system works," he said. "Is everyone who leaves Saudi Arabia checked? But it's good to have a law."
He said Saudi Arabia should tighten control along its long and porous border with Yemen, as well as offer Pakistan financial support to train its police force in counter-insurgency methods.
Western governments have praised Riyadh for its work in snuffing out the al Qaeda insurgency.
"Much of the anti-terrorism campaign has been led by the Pakistani army, an army that has not be adequately trained to deal with an insurgency," he said. "In Yemen, there is a huge amount of work to be done (and) a weakening state apparatus."
(Editing by Andrew Hammond)