SANAA, Yemen — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday urged Yemen to step up security cooperation with the United States during an unannounced visit to shore up ties with a nation that is fast becoming a major focus of American counterterrorism efforts.
Following the Obama administration's pattern in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton also emphasized that the United States wanted a broader relationship with Yemen beyond the fight against violent extremists. Clinton is the first US secretary of state to visit Yemen in two decades.
"We face a common threat posed by the terrorists and al-Qaida, but our partnership goes beyond counterterrorism," she told reporters after a nearly three-hour meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh. "We're focused not just on short-term threats but long-term challenges," such as Yemen's chronic poverty and other economic and social problems, she said.
Under tight security, Clinton landed in the capital of Sanaa, where she pressed Yemeni leaders to crack down further on radicals who have used the country as a base for launching attacks on the US. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be hiding in Yemen, is suspected of having inspired some of those attacks.
"I want to be frank about the fact that there are terrorists operating from Yemeni territory today — many of whom are not Yemeni, some of whom, I am sorry to say, are Americans," Clinton told students, lawmakers and rights activists at a town hall meeting. "They represent an urgent concern for the United States. They have sought to attack our country."
"Stopping such threats would be a priority for any nation, and it is a priority for the United States. It is also a priority for Yemen," she said.