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Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

US steps up flight security lists

An official checks passengers' documents at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, 29 December 2009
US airport security measures have been tightened since the alleged plot

The US has moved dozens of names on to "watch" and "no-fly" lists as it seeks to overhaul security in the wake of an alleged jet bomb plot, officials say.

The US government has also introduced new security measures for all travellers flying to America.

There will be extra screening for people travelling from 14 countries.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama is to meet officials assigned to review security after the suspected plot and is expected to announce reforms.

These will aim to "improve our watchlisting system as well as our ability to thwart future attempts to carry out terrorist attacks", an Obama administration official said.

Among those attending Tuesday's briefing will be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, defence secretary Robert Gates, CIA director Leon Panetta, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano and FBI chief Robert Mueller.

The review comes after an alleged plot by a 23-year-old Nigerian to blow up an airliner shortly before it was due to land in Detroit on Christmas Day.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said that since then, lists had been checked and updated, with names moved from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide), to a watch list or no-fly list.

"Probably dozens were moved to different lists," he said.

Those on the watch list are subject to extra security checks, while those on the no-fly list are not allowed to board flights to the US.

Focus on Yemen

The suspect in the alleged Christmas Day bomb plot, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, came to the attention of US authorities in November, when his father voiced concerns about him to the US embassy in Nigeria.

But he was never moved from the Tide list, which includes hundreds of thousands of names, to the extra screening or no-fly lists.

We see global implications from the war in Yemen
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

As US authorities moved to tighten security, they announced that people travelling from or through 14 countries would be subject to enhanced screening measures, including pat-downs, scanning, and the inspection of hand luggage.

The countries include Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, which the US considers to be sponsors of terrorism, as well as 10 other states considered "of interest" based on recent intelligence.

Passengers flying from other countries will be checked at random.

Among the states considered "of interest" are Yemen - where Mr Abdulmutallab allegedly received training - and Nigeria, through which he travelled on his way to Detroit.

Nigeria called its inclusion on the list "unfair", while Cuban government newspaper Granma dismissed the measures as "anti-terrorist paranoia".

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the plot, increasing concerns about Yemen, where the group is based.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the international nature of threats resulting from instability there.

"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 far beyond the region," she said.

She also said Western support for the country was conditional on Yemen working for peace and stability for its own people and the region.

The US re-opened its embassy in Yemen on Tuesday, following what it called successful counter-terrorism operations by government security forces on Monday north of the capital.

A BBC correspondent in Sanaa says the embassy was referring to a strike that reportedly killed two al-Qaeda operatives.

The embassy had closed on Sunday in response to what it had said were al-Qaeda threats. The British and French embassies have resumed operations but remain closed to the public.

Yemeni authorities have tightened security measures at Sanaa's airport, as well as around several other embassies.

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