Yemeni forces guard the French Embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital. France… (Associated Press )
Reporting from Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Monday that Yemen is a threat to global security but warned that the Obama administration would continue accelerating U.S. aid only if the Yemeni government met U.S. demands to take steps toward stability.
Clinton signaled a growing U.S. focus on the beleaguered Arabian Peninsula nation, saying Yemen had become a launching pad for terrorist attacks on distant corners of the world. She singled out the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound jetliner, allegedly by a Nigerian man trained by Yemeni militants.
"We see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by Al Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks from beyond the region," she said during an appearance at the State Department with Qatari Prime Minister Hamad ibn Jassim Jaber al Thani.
She spoke on a day when Yemeni forces killed two suspected Al Qaeda militants northeast of the capital, Sana, in an area where the government last month struck an Al Qaeda cell believed to be plotting attacks against foreign embassies.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and British embassies in Yemen remained closed for a second day because of what Clinton called "ongoing threats" of attacks. France, Germany and Japan also closed their embassies, citing threats by Al Qaeda.
Ian Kelly, the State Department spokesman, said the decision to close the embassy had been made after officials received a "very specific threat" to U.S. interests.
Kelly said an embassy committee would be meeting daily to decide whether it was safe to reopen the facility in Sana. He acknowledged that American officials had stopped short of the most drastic step, an "ordered departure," because they believed the risk might become manageable.
Top administration officials were set to gather at the White House today for a meeting on the failed attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253. Suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, had smuggled explosives onboard.
President Obama will meet with officials from the CIA, Homeland Security Department and other agencies, partly to give his assessment of "what needs to be fixed," a senior administration official said. The meeting will be a forum for the president to deliver a "clear message," the official said, that "this is unacceptable."
As the government's review of the Christmas Day incident continues, officials are looking at the ways they identify possible threats to the air transportation system.
U.S. intelligence officials have been examining three lists of people considered potentially dangerous. One is a list of 550,000 people, all considered known or suspected terrorists. A second list with 14,000 names includes people who would be subjected to intensive screening if they arrived at an airport. Then there is the "no fly" list -- 4,000 people who are barred from boarding a plane altogether.
Since the Northwest incident, officials have moved several hundred names to "no fly" status or to the list that requires additional screening, a U.S. intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clinton, in her remarks Monday, praised the Yemeni government's cooperation but said that the United States and its allies had "expectations and conditions" that Yemen must meet to continue the flow of foreign aid it badly needs.
The Obama administration wants officials in Sana, who face rebellions in the country's south and north, "to take steps that will lead to a more lasting period of peace and stability," she said.
"There have been numerous conflicts in Yemen and they seem to just get worse and worse with more players involved now," Clinton said. "It's time for the international community to make it clear to Yemen that there are expectations and conditions on our continuing support for the government."
The Yemeni government is eager for more U.S. military and economic aid, but its goals differ from the Americans', which focus primarily on the terrorist threat in Western areas.
Senior Yemeni officials, apparently with an eye on the domestic political fallout, last week downplayed the possibility of cooperating closely with the U.S. in fighting Islamic militants.
Amid the rising U.S. concern, analysts predict more strikes in the country by unmanned U.S. drone aircraft.
U.S. officials say they expect total aid to Yemen for development and security this year to reach $63 million, which would be a 56% increase over fiscal 2009.
Times staff writer Borzou Daragahi in Beirut contributed to this report.