Friday, 17 December 2010

US determined to help Yemen get rid of Al Qaeda cancer: Obama advisor

Source: AFP, 17/12/2010

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor insisted Friday that any tensions between Washington and Yemen were healthy, following recent WikiLeaks revelations.

John Brennan said the Obama administration would do whatever it could to help Yemen rid itself of the "terrible cancer of Al-Qaeda" in excerpts of a speech to be delivered to a Washington think tank.

"As with all bilateral relationships, the relationship between Washington and Sanaa is, at times, marked by differences of view, tension, and even strong frustration by each side," Brennan said in excerpts of his remarks.

Brennan said that Washington frequently pushed Yemen to promote economic and political development, while Yemen complained that all the United States cared about was fighting Al-Qaeda.

"I consider this to be a healthy tension, and President (Ali Abdullah) Saleh and I have had what I will call 'animated' conversations, as we have debated and argued over major substantive issues," Brennan said.

"But that is the hallmark of true friendship -- not telling the other what they want to hear, but telling the other what they need to hear," he said in remarks to be delivered to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

US diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks organization last month suggested that President Ali Abdullah Saleh lied to own people by pretending US military strikes against Al-Qaeda were carried out by Yemeni forces.

And during a meeting about Al-Qaeda with John Brennan, Saleh was "dismissive, bored and impatient," according to another leaked cable published The Guardian newspaper.

Brennan said he had called Saleh before the documents were published by WikiLeaks to apologize.

"I explained to President Saleh that we deeply regretted the public release of purported diplomatic correspondence that resulted from despicable criminal activity," Brennan said.

"I told President Saleh that it was most unfortunate that these releases would be taking place and that I hoped that they would not cause problems for him, the Yemeni government, or the Yemeni people.

"I told President Saleh that President Obama appreciated his understanding of an unfortunate and regrettable development, and that the United States is now even more determined to pursue even stronger ties to Yemen."

Brennan also said that the Obama administration would do all it could to help Yemen tackle militants on its territory.

"I have conveyed President Obama?s personal commitment that the United States will do whatever it can to help the people of Yemen rid their country of the terrible cancer of Al-Qaeda," he said.

In recent years, Yemen has become one of the major fronts of the global US battle against extremists.

Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed it was behind a foiled air cargo bomb plot in October, in which printer toner cartridges that had been rigged as bombs were shipped out of Sanaa.

AQAP is also accused of having tried to blow up an airliner as it arrived in the United States on Christmas Day last year. The would-be weapon in that attack was a bomb sewn into the underpants of a young Nigerian.

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