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Yemen takes tough sell message to us businesses


* US ambassador to Yemen says security support "outstanding"* Yemeni businessmen emphasize water, energy, tech* Delegation says Yemen security environment greatly improvedBy Daniel Bases and Herbert LashNEW YORK, Oct 18 It has to be one of the toughest jobs around - trying to sell U.S. businesses on the investment potential of one of the poorest nations on Earth, a country battered by Islamist militants who bomb, assassinate and kidnap. Yet it is a job U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein is taking on by leading a delegation of 10 Yemeni businessmen on a 10-day, five-city tour of the United States."We think there are great opportunities. There's money to be made investing in Yemen," Feierstein, a career diplomat, said on Thursday. This is the first time the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa has organized a Yemeni business delegation to visit U.S. companies. Just last week masked gunmen fatally shot a Yemeni who worked in the security office of the U.S. Embassy, leaving behind a wife and seven children. A month ago the embassy was stormed by protesters angry about an anti-Islam film made in California. The task of promoting Yemen seems daunting and could draw a parallel to the 2011 film "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," starring Ewan McGregor as a fisheries expert hired by an eccentric sheik to bring fly-fishing to the parched land. Still, the Yemeni business executives, who arrived in New York on Wednesday, presented an upbeat image of their nation."The overall situation in Yemen is improving," said Fathi Abdulwasa Hayel Saeed, chairman of the Yemeni Businessmen Club. "Yes, there are challenges. Yes, there are security issues but Yemen is such a virgin country where there are a lot of opportunities to do business."I think a lot of American companies have been shy from coming to Yemen, while other nationalities like from Europe and Southeast Asia have been coming to Yemen even in the difficult times," Saeed said.

Their itinerary also takes them to Kansas City, Houston, Washington, D. C., and San Francisco.'YEMEN NEEDS POWER' The executives come from the construction, pharmaceuticals, medical and technology industries. However, much of the discussion focused on developing clean water, a precious commodity in the dry Arabian peninsula landscape, as well as renewable energy such as wind and solar power."Yemen needs power to grow the economy," said Wael Zokari, chief executive officer of Griffin International, the technology arm of conglomerate Griffin Group.

"The technology we need comes from the United States," he said. Yemen produces less than half the electricity it needs now, let alone for the infrastructure it wants to build to grow an economy that contracted 10.5 percent in 2011 to under $29 billion. The International Monetary Fund estimates 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and earlier this month forecast economic contraction of 1.9 percent for this year. However, in September nearly $8 billion in international donor pledges were collected to help support the government's budget, which is under severe strains because of frequent attacks on its oil pipelines. According to Feierstein, there is a misperception that Yemen's oil and gas production is "going to run dry over the next few years."

He said oil companies, including major U.S. producers, are interested in taking another look at the country because much of it has never been explored. A survey by Houston-based oil and gas consultant Knowledge Reservoir is under way to calculate more accurately its gas reserves, a U.S. State Department official traveling with the delegation said. POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION The storming of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa occurred in conjunction with the violence on Sept. 11 in Libya in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya, another diplomat and two U.S. security men were killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Asked if he has enough support on security in Yemen, Feierstein responded: "Yes. Absolutely. I would say specifically that the support we have gotten from Washington, the State Department, from (U.S.) Central Command, the White House, which oversees or certainly watches these things, has been outstanding."There's never been a time where we came and asked for support where the support wasn't forthcoming."Yemen still is rattled by violence, often claimed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and U.S.-led drone attacks on militants. But the executives highlighted a political transition that is holding despite militancy, while international donors have pledged billions of dollars to help rebuild the country. In February, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the sole candidate to replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh, was sworn into office. Saleh ruled Yemen for three decades with an iron fist but was pushed out by months of street protests sparked by the Arab Spring. The hope among the executives, the U.S.-backed government, and Washington is that much like McGregor's fictional movie character, who saw his project blown up by local militants, they, like the salmon, will survive.

Your money white dress, green wedding


(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are her own. This is part of a five-story package moving on marriage and money, moving June 4-7)By Temma EhrenfeldNEW YORK, June 7 Lindsey Gehl and Ryan Bell have a vision of their June wedding being white - and green, too. The 27-year-olds will pledge their troth in a traditional ceremony, followed by a reception amid the scenic trails and wildlife habitats of the Pilcher Park Nature Center in Joliet, Illinois, to which they're donating $600. Indeed, their dedication to the environment is so true, they've forked out a little more to have invitations printed on recycled paper, and to have drinks served in glasses instead of plastic tumblers."It would have been cheaper to have our wedding at a church, but we both love nature and we believe it's important to do what we can for the environment," says Gehl, a teacher. Gehl and Bell are in good company. In a November survey by chain store David's Bridal, 78 percent of respondents said they were taking steps to green their weddings, while 35 percent planned to serve local food or decorate with local flowers - both steps that reduce a wedding's carbon footprint. Those who have scoffed at "green" as being synonymous with "cheap" may have to eat their words. Wedding planners say there's an increased focus on environmental niceties that may not save money, and may even plump up a wedding bill. Take food, for example. Locally sourced produce tends to cost more than those by large institutions based further away, says Loren Michelle, proprietor of Naturally Delicious, a caterer and event planner based in Brooklyn, New York."I pay $14-$16 a pound for New York State aged cheddar. Regular cheddar would be $6 to $8," she says, while New York wine is more expensive than wine from California. In-season local vegetables may be less expensive, but not by much. Organic food of any kind is pricy. About a quarter of Michelle's customers request free-range, grass-fed meat, which can cost 30 percent more. As a genre of nuptial celebrations, eco-friendly weddings have held steady at about 11 percent of weddings since the economy tanked in 2008, reports TheKnot, a wedding planning website. And hosts are keen on not being wasteful, says TheKnot editor Anja Winikka. To be sure, it can be stylish to be "eco-chic", says blogger Anne Chertoff, who writes for WeddingWire, an online platform for vendors. A bride could give her gown to a charity, or favor a caterer that will donate unused food.

Some green choices can be gentler on the wallet."For my wedding we used locally grown organic dahlias and hydrangea and saved almost $1,500," says Kate Harrison, founder of the Green Bride Guide. Couples can halve their flower budget, and keep a lid on their carbon footprint, if they avoid having exotic flora shipped in from tropical locations, says TheKnot's Winikka. Moving flowers from the ceremony to the reception area can trim some costs, while enjoyment of the blooms may be prolonged by having guests take them home afterwards. GREEN TO THE EXTREME For radical savings, couples can emulate Lane Bigsby, who in October, opened a low-cost rental service for vintage wedding props, Something Borrowed Portland. ( somethingborrowedpdx.com/ ). Instead of "something borrowed, something blue," Bigsby's maxim for her Portland, Washington wedding last August was a green one; everything had to be borrowed, used or homemade, then reused or recycled after the event. She spent $3,000 on a hundred guests, in a year when the average wedding cost $27,021, according to TheKnot survey. A neighborhood seamstress created her dress with a frilly skirt of old curtains. Sheets were cut into napkins, and burlap bags from the local coffee roaster redeployed as table runners. Guests brought entrees and took home leftovers. The goal? Zero waste.

"We had one small grocery bag of garbage, and I took it home and sorted through to save things and compost the rest," says Bigsby, 36, who works as a project administrator at an energy efficiency consulting company. Here are some tips for couples who'd like their big day to be eco and budget this site DRESSES Alter a dress that's already in the family - his or hers. Or buy a used gown for a third of its retail price, according to Harrison. Check out RecycledBride.com, which also offers items like shoes and rings. Sell the dress after the wedding to recoup some costs or donate it to a thrift shop serving a favorite cause. The Bridal Garden in New York City gives all proceeds to benefit education for local children. The Glass Slipper Project ( this site ) and donatemydress.org give bridesmaid gowns to high school students who can't afford prom dresses.

CAR POOL, AND LOCATION POOL Skip the parade of honking cars and hold the reception and ceremony in the same location. Arrange car pooling. WEB INVITES Invitations made from recycled paper and soy ink are fine, but perhaps consider a web invite, or use free wedding websites to provide directions and hotel information. Guests can RSVP online. GREEN GIFTS Create a green registry. Ask only for essential gifts or have guests contribute to a charity. THE RING Consider a vintage ring. Or buy wedding rings made with post-consumer gold and man-made diamonds. GREEN, IN MODERATION Not every green wedding idea is smart. Bigsby - certified in Portland as a "Master Recycler" to educate the public about environmental issues - recommends against 'compostable' dishes; these apparently don't compost in a landfill or in home composts, which don't get hot enough.