Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Department of State Undersecretary for Political Affairs visits Yemen

January 25, 2012

On January 25, Department of State Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, visited Yemen for meetings with senior government officials and civil society leaders. Ambassador Sherman’s visit is the first by a senior U.S. Government official since the signing of the GCC Initiative on November 23.

Ambassador Sherman met with Vice President Abdo Rabu Mansoor Hadi, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Defense, Oil, Finance, Information, and Planning. In her meetings with government officials, Ambassador Sherman expressed U.S. support for Yemen’s political transition and outlined U.S. government assistance to support the presidential elections.

In a roundtable with civil society leaders, Ambassador Sherman emphasized the importance of civil society, youth, and women in Yemen’s political transition. She called on all Yemenis to fully engage with the National Consensus Government and to participate in elections and the National Dialogue process.

Ambassador Sherman became the Undersecretary for Political Affairs on September 21, 2011. Prior to this position, she served as a foreign policy advisor to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and was Vice Chair of the Albright Group international policy consulting firm.January 25, 2011

On January 25, Department of State Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, visited Yemen for meetings with senior government officials and civil society leaders. Ambassador Sherman’s visit is the first by a senior U.S. Government official since the signing of the GCC Initiative on November 23.

Nexen refutes Yemeni misconduct claim

Monitoring agency defends firm's record

By Dan Healing, Calgary Herald January 25, 2012

An online story from a news site in Yemen that claims Nexen Inc. attempted to bribe officials is being repeated on several Middle Eastern news websites.

The Yemen Post published a story Friday headlined "Canadian Nexen stood Behind Major Corruption in Yemen" and quotes unnamed Yemeni government officials who claim the Calgary-based company "was willing to give millions of dollars in bribes to Yemeni officials to help them stay in control of Block 14."

A Nexen spokesman said the claims are not correct.

"It is completely and totally unfounded," said Pierre Alvarez. "We have one of the most robust integrity monitoring processes in the industry. We operate by international standards as well as ours, that exceed any industry-wide standards out there."

The Yemen Post story admits more investigation is needed to substantiate the claims. On Monday, it printed another story that claimed millions had been paid by unnamed foreign oil and gas companies to officials to please the ruling family and ensure they retained contracts.

The Post is considered independent, but Yemen's ministry of information is said to influence media through means including its control of printing presses and granting newspaper subsidies.

Nexen's production-sharing contract on the block, also called the Masila block, expired Dec. 17 and was not renewed, despite the efforts of a Nexen delegation headed by president and chief executive Marvin Romanow.

Romanow left the company this month.

Alexandra Wrage, founder and president of the anti-corruption agency TRACE International, said it's difficult to say if the charges are believable.

"The rumour mill is rife. . . . we have people checking the multilingual media," she said. "And to be clear, I have absolutely no confirmation that there is anything to this at all."

She said it's unusual the allegations are coming from inside Yemen, instead of from a country with an anti-corruption infrastructure, adding that suggests Nexen may be being named to advance domestic political goals.

Wrage added Nexen has an excellent reputation for its "robust anti-bribery" policies, noting its lawyers speak at anti-corruption events and the company is known for its community responsibility practices.

Yemen has been the site of violence for nearly a year as pro-testers attempt to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He left the capital, Sanaa, on Sunday to go to the United States for medical treatment, but vowed to return to Yemen.

Nexen's production from the Masila field was estimated at more than 24,000 barrels of oil per day in 2011 and the field had given the company 1.1 billion barrels since Nexen discovered it in 1987 and it began producing in 1993. Block 14 was handed over to PetroMasila, a Yemeni company created for the purpose.

Nexen still holds a production sharing agreement on Block 51 (also called East Al-Hajr) in Yemen, which currently produces 6,000 to 8,000 bpd net to Nexen. The deal expires in 2023 and the company has said it is considering whether or not to retain such a small asset.

The allegations come seven months after Calgary-based producer Niko Resources Ltd. was handed a $9.5-mil-lion negotiated penalty after pleading guilty to one charge under Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

Niko admitted it had paid off a Bangladeshi minister with the use of a new black Toyota Land Cruiser and a trip to Calgary and New York in 2005.

Wrage said the penalty, the Canadian court's heftiest punishment under the act, has caught the attention of Canadian companies who are signing up for more anti-corruption events and de-voting more staff time and resources to the issue.

Niko was also placed on a court-supervised probation for three years, during which time it must make strides in improving corporate culture.

The Niko indictment followed a six-year RCMP probe involving police in Calgary and law enforcement agencies in Switzerland, Japan, the U.K. and Barbados - an investigation that cost $879,000.

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh Set to Arrive in NY for Medical Treatment

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

By WNYC Newsroom

The departing president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is expected to arrive in New York on Wednesday for medical treatment.

Saleh was injured in a bomb attack last summer when the country teetered on the cusp of civil war.

Adel Kassim, an editor at Ghorba News, a local Yemeni newspaper and website, said Yemeni immigrants are mostly supportive of Saleh but want to see the country move forward with peaceful reforms.

"They look forward to establishing their own government, and they look forward to live in peace," Kassim said.

Presidential elections in Yemen are slated for February.

Qaeda gunmen quit Yemen town under tribal pressure

By Fawaz al-Haidari (AFP)

January 25, 2012

ADEN — Hundreds of Al-Qaeda gunmen bowed to tribal pressure on Wednesday and withdrew from a Yemeni town they had held for nine days after authorities pledged to free 15 militants, tribal sources said.

"They have left the town" of Rada 130 kilometres (85 miles) southeast of Sanaa, one tribal source said hours after a senior military official said mediators had convinced the extremists to withdraw.

Some tribal mediators, who have formed a committee of 35 dignitaries from seven different Yemeni cities, told AFP they had warned the militants to leave Rada voluntarily or be forced out.

Usually heavily armed tribes still play a vital role in Yemeni politics and society, joining the army to battle Al-Qaeda-linked militants who have taken over several regions across the south and east.

Rada was overrun on January 16, the latest in a series of towns and cities to fall as Al-Qaeda takes advantage of a central government weakened by months of protests.

"Tribal mediation carried out by Sheikh Hashed Fadhl al-Qawsi succeeded, after three days of talks, to convince the armed Al-Qaeda men to leave Rada," a military official told AFP late on Tuesday.

A local dignitary, Ahmed Kalaz, confirmed the departure of Islamist fighters he described as close to Tarek al-Dahab, brother-in-law of the Yemeni-American extremist Anwar al-Awlaqi, who was killed in a US air strike last September.

"They've retreated to Al-Manasa," Dahab's native village some 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the southeast, Kalaz said.

In exchange, the mediators promised the gunmen that 15 of their fellow militants would be freed and a committee comprising town residents would be formed to replace corrupt officials.

The commission was formed and so far five militants had been released, with the rest to follow in the next two days.

Khaled al-Dahab, Tarek's brother, said their third brother Nabil, a jihadist seized by Syrian authorities as he was returning from Iraq and handed over to Yemen, was among the five freed on Wednesday.

"Five Al-Qaeda detainees, among them Nabil, have been released," Khaled told AFP by telephone.

In a statement on an Islamist website, the "Partisans of Sharia" (Islamic Law) militants said that they had agreed to leave in return for these demands being met.

They said they had entered "Rada to reform the situation there by implementing God's law and removing corruption and the corrupt" officials.

As news of the withdrawal spread, residents took to Rada's streets in celebration, firing shots in the air.

"Our town is celebrating this event as war and chaos have been avoided," said one, Faisal al-Riashi, reached by telephone.

"Life in Rada is returning to normal and residents have begun removing rocks" used to block roads, said another resident, Aref al-Amri. He added that shops are reopening.

Residents also paraded through Rada carrying banners reading "The farce is over."

Opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who left Yemen on Sunday for the United States via Oman for medical treatment, accuse him of deliberately handing over towns and cities to Islamists in an attempt to gain Western support for his regime.

The strong jihadist presence in Yemen made Saleh a key ally in Washington's "war on terror" before the Arab Spring uprisings sparked a wave of protests against his regime that he countered with deadly violence.

"Affash it's no use, the people of Rada are united," some banners carried during Wednesday's demonstration in Rada read, referring to the veteran leader.

Affash is Saleh's original family name which he usually hides because it means "thug" in the local dialect.

Al-Qaeda members occupied several public buildings after taking Rada.

"If any of the conditions (to leave the town) are not met, the Partisans of Sharia will have the right to take the action that deters the traitors based on God's law," they said in the statement.

Meanwhile, 10 soldiers were wounded in clashes late Tuesday between Al-Qaeda members and the army in the southern city of Zinjibar, where the militants have been battling the military since May, a government official told AFP Wednesday.

Hundreds have been killed from both sides as most of Zinjibar's residents have fled to nearby cities.