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Yemen could become a new Somalia without help, minister says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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How stable is Yemen?
  • Yemen's deputy finance minister calls for $45- to $50 billion international investment
  • He denies his country could become a failed state
  • Good jobs and infrastructure help fight extremism, he says

See Becky Anderson's interview with Yemeni official Jalal Yaqoub on CNN International's "Connect the World" program at 9 p.m. GMT Monday.

(CNN) -- Yemen could turn out like Somalia if the current rate of international investment doesn't increase, the country's deputy finance minister told CNN Monday.

"I'm not suggesting a failed state," Jalal Yaqoub said. "What I'm suggesting (is) a state where citizens don't get the right services delivered to them."

Yemen sparked an international security alert this weekend when two packages mailed from the poor Arab nation were found to have explosives inside. The bombs could have brought down the planes carrying them, officials said.

Yemen has become a major new battleground for al Qaeda, but Yaqoub denied it could become a "failed state" with no effective central government, like Somalia.

"I don't think Yemen is a collapsing state. I don't think Yemen is a weak state," he told CNN's Becky Anderson in an interview for "Connect the World."

But it needs $45- to $50 billion in investment over the next decade to give people jobs, water, and electricity because "extremism flourishes in an area where people have no jobs and too much time on their hands.

Video: How stable is Yemen?
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  • Al Qaeda
  • Terrorism
  • Somalia

"We have ideas. We have plans. We have visions. And we need the support of the international community to make sure that jobs are being created and services delivered to these people and that will certainly help stabilize the country and reduce extremism."

Yaqoub said it "would not surprise" him if the United States increased its covert activities in his country in the wake of the foiled bomb plot, but that "as a Yemeni citizen" he did not like the idea of unmanned U.S. drones.

The United States is thought to use drones to fire missiles at suspected terrorists in Pakistan, among other locations. It does not officially confirm such strikes.

A U.S. official said Monday the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency continues to expand its intelligence operations in Yemen with more operatives and analysts working closely with the Yemen government and other U.S. partners inside the country.

The increased focus on Yemen predates the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit. There has been no decision on expanding the CIA role to include running a drone campaign in Yemen. The official said the Agency has the capability to do so, but it ultimately is a White House decision to move forward on that front.

Regarding the threat of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula compared to al Qaeda Pakistan, the official said "this is not a zero sum game." Al Qaeda Pakistan remains very dangerous even though it is under intense pressure by the United States because of drone missile attacks.

The official pointed to the European plot as having its roots in Pakistan.

AQAP is an affiliate that has become increasingly more active. The two groups communicate and share ideas. Al Qaeda in Pakistan encourages AQAP to carry out attacks. However, the official said AQAP makes its own tactical decisions, runs its own day to day operations.

The official said Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is clearly playing a more prominent operational role in AQAP, he is part of the senior leadership. It would not be surprising if in the end, al-Awlaki had a role in the cargo bombing plot, but so far there is no direct evidence of that, the official said. Another U.S. official also said it "wouldn't be a surprise if he ends up implicated in this."

Both officials said it is still unclear the intent of the cargo plot, this is whether the bombs were to explode in the planes or at the synagogues or had another purpose. The second official said the fact these were "real devices, a real attempt" pretty much discounts any theory that this was merely a trial run by the terrorists -- "it doesn't hold much water anymore." This official said experts are examining the devices to determine how they would have worked and whether they had the capability to work as intended.

CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report