Friday, 31 December 2010

US Calls For Consensus On Constitutional Reforms In Yemen

Source: RTTNews

The United States has called on the government and the opposition in Yemen to reach a consensus by addressing issues related to Constitutional reforms and other election reforms through the National Dialogue.

A statement issued by Acting State Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner "urgently" called on all parties to delay parliamentary action and to return to the negotiating table to reach an agreement that will be welcomed by the Yemeni people as well as Yemen's friends.

The US government welcomed reports that Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has decided to appoint a new team from the ruling party - General People's Conference - to re-engage with the opposition in a new effort to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion.

The State Department issued the statement in the wake of reports regarding the apparent decision by the ruling party to vote on a package of Constitutional reforms at a parliamentary session on Saturday.

The Parliamentary majority of Yemen’s ruling party would vote next Saturday for new constitutional amendments for better political system, said sources in the party’s block on Wednesday.

The presidential term will be reduced to five years instead of current seven years according to the new amendments.

Women will be given 44 additional seats in the House of Representatives raising the number to 345 instead of the current 301 seats.

Decentralization by adopting local governance with wide powers will also be stipulated in the new amendments.

The decision to vote for the new constitutional amendments came after President Ali Abdullah Saleh had held a meeting with the State officials and leaders of his party in the Presidential Office in the capital Sana’a late on Wednesday.

Such constitutional amendments along with holding the parliamentary elections on time (next April) were the main topics of the exceptional meeting of President Saleh.

These developments came as the country’s main opposition parties escalated their threats to boycott the next April elections seeking political reforms first.

The opposition say the ruling party violated an agreement reached between them and the ruling party on February 2009 for making such political reforms.

The parties at the time agreed to postpone the parliamentary elections for two years from April 2009 to April 2011 after they amended a constitutional article to allow them to take the step of postponement.

The parties failed to reach any agreement on the political and elections reforms during the period from February 2009 until today.

Earlier this month, the ruling party declared it would go to April’s elections even without the main opposition parties, the coalition which includes the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserite, locally known as the Joint Meeting Parties.The majority of the ruling party in the House voted for amendments of the electoral law.

It also voted for formation of a supreme committee of elections, made up of nine judges, rather than representatives of the parties, a step taken for the first time since Yemen started democracy in 1990.It seems it’s not too late for the parties to reach a compromise which make them all participate in the next elections.

According to sources in the Presidential meeting of today Wednesday, the President Saleh asked some of his officials to contact with the opposition leaders for convincing them to participate in the elections.

The spokesman of the opposition coalition Mohammed Al Kubati said, however, the only thing that would make the opposition accept any talk or any dialogue with the ruling party is to cancel all steps taken without participation of the opposition like the vote for the amendments of the electoral law and formation of the elections committee.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Al Qa'eda magazine gives out bomb tips

Source: The National, by David Sapsted
LONDON - An online al Qa'eda magazine produced in the Arabian Peninsula provided bomb-making instructions for nine terrorism suspects planning attacks in Britain, security sources in London said yesterday.

The nine men, all of Bangladeshi origin and aged between 19 and 28, appeared in court earlier this week charged with conspiring to cause explosions in the UK.

A security source told The National yesterday that printouts of articles from an online English-language magazine called Inspire, produced in Yemen by al Qa'eda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), had been found in one of the men's homes when a dozen suspects were arrested last week in raids in London, Cardiff and Stoke. Three of the men were later released without charge.

"One of the articles was entitled 'How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom'," said a security source on condition of anonymity.

"We believe these devices were intended for specific individuals, although there is also evidence of a wider plot to bomb London landmarks."

Individuals allegedly targeted by the suspects included Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and prominent Christian and Jewish clerics.

Anwar al Awlaki, the Yemeni preacher whose teachings champion violent jihad against the West, was named in court as the inspiration behind the plot, which is also believed to have included bomb targets such as Big Ben, the US Embassy and Westminster Cathedral.

The role of the online magazine, written in colloquial English and believed to be edited by Samir Khan, a Saudi-born US citizen raised in New York and Canada, is worrying security experts on both sides of the Atlantic.
"It's almost like a bit of a training manual that's being delivered via the internet right to the doorstep of whomever in the UK or United States or Canada or wherever in the western world," William Gaches, a former intelligence official in the Bush administration, told Fox News.

Three editions of Inspire have appeared so far and they resist the heavy theology of most Arabic-language, jihadist websites, according to Mathieu Guidere, a lecturer on terrorism at the University of Geneva.

The fact that the suspects being held in London were much more likely to be familiar with English than Arabic was "proof that the magazine works", Mr Guidere told The Washington Post.
In his recent book The New Terrorists, Mr Guidere underlined the increasing role being played by websites.
"Generally," he wrote, "the only link with the terrorist organisation is virtual. Thanks to the internet, the sympathiser radicalises all by himself and learns how to make bombs at home."

The AQAP leader, Nasir al Wahishi, 32, a Yemeni who became Osama bin Laden's personal secretary in Afghanistan while still a teenager, is said to be the driving force behind Inspire, as well as Sada al Malahem ("Echo of the Epics"), an Arab-language digital magazine.

"These reflect the strategy of urging a large internet audience to sustain jihad through small, autonomous and 'easy' attacks to soft targets," Pepe Escobar, a terrorism analyst, wrote in Asia Times.

"Nasir is in charge of the web while two of his commanders take care of the military front."

The nine men under arrest in Britain will appear in court on January 14 charged with conspiring to cause explosions "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK" between November 6 and December 21.

Charges faced by the nine specifically accuse them of "downloading, researching, obtaining and discussing materials and methods; researching, discussing, carrying out reconnaissance on, and agreeing potential targets; travelling to and attending meetings; igniting and testing incendiary material".

Yemen releases 460 Houthi rebels

Source: AFP, 31/12/2010

SANAA — Yemen released 460 northern Shiite rebel prisoners on Thursday following Qatari mediation, the rebels and security officials said.

Of those, 270 were set free in Sanaa and the rest in the northern city of Saada, the centre of the rebellion by Zaidis, also known as Huthis, a security official said.

Earlier in the day, a source close to the rebels said the authorities had begun releasing prisoners and that the move would affect about 1,000 detainees.

A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the release and added that "President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered for 400 prisoners to be released in the first stage."
The rebels said in a statement that they had returned 10 military vehicles to authorities. They said they had so far received 428 freed prisoners.

The rebels have been engaged in sporadic fighting with government forces since 2004.
The prisoner release comes just days after a Qatari delegation arrived in Yemen in a bid to consolidate a fragile peace deal reached in February between the Sanaa government and the rebels.

The truce has largely held, although a car bomb stuck a religious procession in a Shiite rebel bastion in the northern province of Al-Jawf province on November 24, killing 15 people.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New constitutional amendments to reduce presidential term and empower women in Yemen

By Nasser Arrabyee/29/12/2010

The Parliamentary majority of Yemen’s ruling party would vote next Saturday for new constitutional amendments for better political system, said sources in the party’s block on Wednesday.

The presidential term will be reduced to five years instead of current seven years according to the new amendments.

Women will be given 44 additional seats in the House of Representatives raising the number to 345 instead of the current 301 seats.

Decentralization by adopting local governance with wide powers will also be stipulated in the new amendments.

The decision to vote for the new constitutional amendments came after President Ali Abdullah Saleh had held a meeting with the State officials and leaders of his party in the Presidential Office in the capital Sana’a late on Wednesday.

Such constitutional amendments along with holding the parliamentary elections on time (next April) were the main topics of the exceptional meeting of President Saleh.

These developments came as the country’s main opposition parties escalated their threats to boycott the next April elections seeking political reforms first.

The opposition say the ruling party violated an agreement reached between them and the ruling party on February 2009 for making such political reforms.

The parties at the time agreed to postpone the parliamentary elections for two years from April 2009 to April 2011 after they amended a constitutional article to allow them to take the step of postponement.

The parties failed to reach any agreement on the political and elections reforms during the period from February 2009 until today.

Earlier this month, the ruling party declared it would go to April’s elections even without the main opposition parties, the coalition which includes the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserite, locally known as the Joint Meeting Parties.

The majority of the ruling party in the House voted for amendments of the electoral law. It also voted for formation of a supreme committee of elections, made up of nine judges, rather than representatives of the parties, a step taken for the first time since Yemen started democracy in 1990.
It seems it’s not too late for the parties to reach a compromise which make them all participate in the next elections.

According to sources in the Presidential meeting of today Wednesday, the President Saleh asked some of his officials to contact with the opposition leaders for convincing them to participate in the elections.

The spokesman of the opposition coalition Mohammed Al Kubati said, however, the only thing that would make the opposition accept any talk or any dialogue with the ruling party is to cancel all steps taken without participation of the opposition like the vote for the amendments of the electoral law and formation of the elections committee.

Somali pirates threaten Yemeni fishermen's lives, livelihood

Source: IRIN, 29/12/2010

MUKALLA - Salem Khames Balghay, 53, says his son and brother, who are fishermen like him, have been held by Somali pirates since October. "In mid-October, we lost contact with them," he said.
The family is from the coastal town of Kusair, about 80km east of the southern city of Mukalla. Three other fishermen went missing at the same time.

Two weeks ago, Salem got a phone call from his brother. "He called us from Somalia and told us they were in the custody of pirates in Gar'ad District [Mudug Region], Somalia."

The detained fisherman said on the phone that the pirates had refused to set them free until they had kidnapped a ship. Their captors only had small boats and had thus commandeered the fishermen's boats, saying they needed them as they were more seaworthy.

"We don't know when we will see them back. Let's keep our fingers crossed for their immediate release," said Salem.

Salem said local fishermen were scared of Somali pirates and kept close to the Hadhramaut Governorate's coastline, though catches there were very poor.

Mohammed Saeed al-Bakri, 35, also from Kusair, told IRIN about a recent encounter with pirates. "We were doing some maintenance work on our boat engine when six Somali pirates approached, boarded our boat, and told us to surrender. They put a gun to the head of our captain and told him to head for Gar'ad. Seven of us were kidnapped about 7km off Abd al Kuri Island.

"When we arrived in Gar'ad, I saw Salem Khames's relatives there. I told them their families had been waiting impatiently for news of them."

In Gar'ad, the pirates got some provisions and headed back to sea, looking for ships to attack and loot. The pirates told them they would not release them until they found a ship.

"For about 25 days, we worked like slaves for the pirates. We cooked for them. The pirates continued scouting for cargo ships and finally got an Indian fishing boat," al-Bakri said.

"I don't want to go through the same experience. I'd prefer to stay at home," he said.

Crying out for protection

Abdullah Sa'aden, head of the Kusair Fisheries Association, which represents local fishermen, told IRIN fishermen were desperate. "They [the pirates] have become a real threat to our main source of livelihood. Fishermen are afraid to go to sea."

Sa'aden said he had tried everything. "I have knocked on doors and told all concerned about our problems. We have sent letters to the Yemeni Coast Guard, the Ministry of Fishing and representatives of countries policing international shipping lanes in the region. The minister of fisheries has promised to discuss the issue with his counterpart in Gar'ad."

Omer Gambet, head of the Fisheries Cooperative Union (FCU) in Mukalla, told IRIN he had been lobbying to get the problem of piracy dealt with, but to no avail.

According to Gambet, there are about 15,000 FCU registered fishermen, and thousands more unregistered but operating along the coast of Hadhramaut. The fishing industry used to feed more than 80,000 people. "Just imagine this huge group of fishermen being jobless," he said.

Fish catches in Hadhramaut have fallen sharply from 88,000 tons in 2004 to 26,000 in 2009. "One of the main reasons for the decline is piracy. Fishermen cast their nets near the shore where there are few fish. We are calling for a considerable military presence near Abul Kuri Island where most piracy incidents take place," Gambet said.

Saleh Baymain, head of the Fishing Vessels Association along the Hadhramaut coast, which represents 400 fishing boats which used to sail as far as the Somali coast, said the pirates had been attacking local Yemeni fishermen since 2004.

"Piracy incidents have claimed the lives of 10 fishermen and led to 105 others being injured. Losses are estimated at YR372 million [$1.5 million] since 2008," Baymain sai.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

ICRC facilitates video calls for Guantanamo detainees, their families in Yemen

Source: Xinhua, 29/12/2010

SANAA- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on Tuesday that it has facilitated video-teleconference calls between detainees at the U.S.-run military jail in Guantanamo Bay and their families in Yemen.

"The first calls were made ten days ago at the headquarters of the ICRC's delegation in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. The latest round of calls was made from Yemen's southern city port of Aden," the ICRC said in a press release.

A total of 90 Yemeni nationals are currently detained in Guantanamo Bay.
"So far, four Yemeni families have used the video calls," Nourane Houas of the ICRC's Sanaa delegation said.

The video calls can last up to one hour, in which detainees for the first time in almost a decade can speak and also see their families in Yemen, the press release added.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has repeatedly asked the United States to repatriate all Yemenis held at the Guantanamo Bay, vowing commitment to enroll them in a rehabilitation program.

On Jan. 22, 2009, U.S. President Barak Obama promised to close the detention facility in Cuba in one year, which he failed to deliver.

In early 2010, Obama said that the plan to close the facility was still on, but his country will not transfer additional Guantanamo detainees to Yemen after a failed bombing plot against a U.S. airliner in December 2009, which the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing claimed credit

Monday, 27 December 2010

Yemen Improves Airport Security to Lift U.S. Ban

Source: Bloomberg, by Mohammed Hatem
Yemeni authorities have improved airport security as they seek to lift a U.S. ban on air freight from the Arab country, the state-run Saba news agency reported, citing Transport Minister Khalid al-Wazeer.

The U.S. government enforced the ban following the discovery in October that two parcel bombs on their way to the U.S. had originated in Yemen.

Modern equipment have been set up at Yemeni airports to boost security, the Sanaa-based news agency cited al-Wazeer as saying. Contracts to buy additional equipment have been already signed, he said, according to the report.

The United Arab Emirates civil aviation authority lifted a similar ban this month, Saba reported on Dec. 9

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, failed to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25 last year, in an attempt claimed by the Yemeni branch of al- Qaeda.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged to strengthen the Yemeni military and accelerate development of the poorest Arab economy, which is battling separatist groups as well as al-Qaeda.

Yemen’s Oil Exports Up 54% in First 9 Months, Consumption Drops

Source: Bloomberg, By Mohammed Hatem

Yemen’s oil exports increased in value by 54 percent in the first nine months of the year while domestic consumption declined due to higher prices, the Saba news agency reported.

Oil exports for the year through September rose to $1.9 billion from $1.2 billion in the year-earlier period, the state- run news agency said today, citing figures from the Central Bank of Yemen.

Exported oil jumped to 24 million barrels in the first nine months, up from 21 million barrels in the period last year.

Domestic consumption of oil declined to 18 million barrels during the first nine months from 20 million barrels in the same period in 2009, the report said.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has asked for $44.5 billion in aid over the next five years from Western and Persian Gulf donors to jump-start its economy and combat the spread of terrorism, al-Arabiya television reported on Feb. 28.

The government expects oil reserves that fund 70 percent of the budget to diminish over the next decade.

Crude has more than doubled from a four-year low in December 2008 and is up 15 percent for the year to date, trading at more than $90 a barrel today.

Yemeni opposition leader detained for another week over Gulf Cup 'plot'

Source: The National, by Mohammed al Qadhi
SANA'A- Yemen's state security prosecution yesterday extended the arrest of an opposition leader by seven days for his alleged involvement in a plot to sabotage the recent Gulf Cup football tournament.

Mohammed Ghalib, a member of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), was arrested on Sunday following allegations that he offered US$50,000 (Dh183,500) to southern separatists to carry out "acts of sabotage" during the tournament held in the southern part of the country during November and December.

The state-owned Saba news agency said Mr Ghalib had been brought in for questioning following statements made by Taher Tammah,a leading member of the separatist Southern Movement who is currently under arrest, accused by the government of calling for the division of the country and for carrying out acts of sabotage in the south.

Mr Tammah reportedlysaid that his group were offered $50,000 by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition of six parties including the YSP, through Mr Ghalib to sabotage the Gulf Cup.

The tournament, won by Kuwait earlier this month, was held without any security incidents.
Mr Ghalib has denied the charges, describing them as politically motivated and linked to his denial of a statement made recently by Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, that YSP had backed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

"I have told my interrogators to try to expertly stage their charges because I have nothing to do with violence and I do not believe in it. I announced my support for the Gulf Cup tournament before it started," Mr Ghalib reportedly told opposition MPs visiting him in prison yesterday, according to the al Sahwa opposition website.

"My arrest and detention has to do with my rejection of the accusation of the authorities that the socialist party backed the Iraqi war on Kuwait. It has nothing to do with the allegations of supporting the southern movement for I do not believe in violence."

The YSP said that the government was playing "with fire" by arresting Mr Ghalib. The JMP said in a statement such actions "would lead to further violence and unrest" in a country that is faced with a separatist uprising in the south, a Shiite insurgency in the north, and al Qa'eda militants.
The Yemeni interior ministry warned in a statement issued on Sunday that all JMP leaders would be questioned if the interrogation of Mr Ghalib links them to attempts to sabotage the Gulf Cup.

"This is ridiculous for the authorities to arrest political activists on the basis of a statement by a witness they consider an outlaw and [who] is wanted on criminal charges. They are targeting the JMP and Ghalib for their political views," said Aidarous al Naqeeb, the head of the YSP caucus in parliament.

Mr Ghalib's arrest comes amid increasing tension between the government and the opposition following a vote by Mr Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) on the country's electoral law and the formation of an electoral commission.

The opposition said that, by approving the amendment to the electoral law on December 11, the ruling party violated a 2009 accord on political reforms.

The JMP had already threatened to boycott parliamentary elections, due to be held in 2011, and called for protests against the GPC's plan to hold the poll without completing the promised dialogue on political and electoral reforms.

While the JMP and independent legislators announced on Saturday they would continue their boycott of parliamentary sessions and expand their protests "against the ruling party's violations of the state constitution", the GPC had said it would move ahead with elections in April to avoid a constitutional vacuum.

Mr Saleh meanwhile reiterated on Sunday his call for the JMP to take part in elections and called on foreign organisations to monitor the process.
"[We do not wish to take part in] an election in which the regime wants to renew its stay in power.

"Our next battle in the opposition is the defence of the people's rights, including their right in a free and fair election that would lead to change," said Mohammed al Sabri, a leading JMP politician.

Media exaggerate al-Qaida’s influence in Yemen , official


In this exclusive interview, Yemen's deputy prime minister for economic affairs says the government welcomes US help to fight terror.

Abd-A-Karim Al-Arhabi is the deputy prime minister for economic affairs and the minister of planning and international cooperation for the Republic of Yemen. He is also the founder and managing director of the Social Fund for Development.

This past April, Arhabi received a public service award from the World Bank, citing him as a “key champion in the battle to reduce poverty, improve governance and broaden economic growth for Yemen.”

The Media Line’s Felice Friedson recently spoke with the Deputy Prime Minister in his office in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

TML: Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abd-A-Karim Al-Arhabi, thank you for taking the time for this interview.

Arhabi: You're welcome.

TML: It's rare in the West to hear anything [about Yemen] without the words al-Qaida. Is that accurate? Is that a fair assessment?

Arhabi: No, it is not. It cannot be. You yourself are in Sana'a and you see how Sana'a is. We have some isolated incidents of al-Qaida types from time to time, but many countries are subjected to some threats, so it's not only Yemen. Other countries are subject to similar terror acts. The media is exaggerating.

Talking about al-Qaida is exciting and it attracts readers and viewers. That's why whatever relates to al-Qaida is being very much exaggerated and it overshadows the image of Yemen, which is most unfair.

TML: On one hand, there is a story to tell about Yemen, the country. A poor country, but a country with a rich history and beautiful architecture. On the other hand, there are serious incidents in rural areas with al-Qaida and terrorism, so how do you contain that terrorism?

Arhabi: I think the government is doing its best. Yemen unfortunately went through several cycles: or permanent cycles of conflict.

You are first, absolutely right. Yemen is a very interesting country; a unique country; has a rich culture; has a beautiful landscape and a long history of civilization which extends back to 1700 B.C. We have a civilization that is 3,700 years old. The country has very limited resources and unfortunately went through continuous cycles of conflict for 50 years which has drained resources and energy.

At the present time, the government is trying its best to combat terrorism and al-Qaida -- but we all know that Yemen has very little in terms of financial resources and human resources necessary to deal with al-Qaida. The government is doing its best; and has had several successes in combating al-Qaida.

TML: Does Yemen welcome American assistance and guidance in countering terrorism?

Arhabi: Terrorism is a global threat and unless we all join forces together, we will not be able to defeat that threat. That's why we need to cooperate -- all of us --in exchanging information, experience and so on; and providing all kinds of necessary support. It is an official position of the Yemeni government to accept support, whether it is coming from the United States or any other development partners.

TML: It is known that poor countries like Yemen have areas where al-Qaida seeks out young people in order to drag them into terrorism. How do you prevent that?

Arhabi: You are absolutely right. The young people are most vulnerable to being influenced by al-Qaida and the extremists. The young people who don't have proper education and skill training and a respectable life can be misled and used for any purpose.

That's why it is of extreme importance that we focus on young people to provide them with good education, focusing on skills, training and jobs.

Otherwise, it can be extremely dangerous. Extremists usually target young people to indoctrinate them. That's a big danger, actually.

Young people who have no perspectives in life, have to be careful and Yemen needs to provide young people with hope and perspectives.

TML: Yemen appears to be making serious efforts towards democratization. Is the West helping sufficiently? Are you satisfied with that assistance or should there be more?

Arhabi: Well, our needs are unlimited, to be fair, in terms of democratization; and in terms of meeting the basic needs of the population. Our needs are unlimited, but we welcome any support.

We have some donors and development partners that have been providing us with support for the last three and four decades. But still, what Yemen is getting is very limited.

I can give you some examples. The official development assistance that Yemen is getting is between $13 and $15 per capita per year while the average per capita in the least developing countries is more than $40 per capita per year.

Yemen is very much under-funded. This is a well-known fact. Sometimes you have donors that are focusing on specific parts of the world to provide assistance and sometimes donors confuse us with the Peninsula as a whole. They feel we are part of the huge wealth in the Peninsula which is not true. Yemen is a very poor country.

TML: As managing director of the Social Fund for Development, at what rate is Yemen's economy moving forward? How fast is it growing?

Arhabi: We had ambitious plans. We thought that we would be able to reach high economic growth: to be able to reduce poverty in the country.

Our population growth is 3 % and we planned to have economic growth of 7.1% for the three to five years according to a plan spanning from 2006 to 2010. Unfortunately, we couldn't reach that goal. It was too ambitious and we had so many problems in the country.

What we achieved was an average of 4.6% economic growth, which is reasonable if you take into consideration the difficulties and challenges the country is facing.

TML: The Social Fund for Development is now backing the expansion of the coffee industry. Some of the coffee suppliers that I spoke with expressed concerned over the government's lack of assistance in the area of water -- that they need dams -- and that they need internationally-recognized grading systems in order to move the coffee industry forward.

What does the government need to do in order to make that difference?

Arhabi: Again, it is the same problem. The needs are unlimited and the resources are very limited. The government has been providing assistance to the farmers but it's not enough, I agree with that.

However, our planning is to have special programs to support the coffee growers and farmers and provide them with the necessary assistance in terms of capacity building; building dams and modern irrigation systems.

We are determined to provide such assistance to the coffee farmers.

TML: Is the plan to be able to help coffee growers distribute better or is it to actually process the coffee here and ship directly?

Arhabi: We would like to provide them with comprehensive assistance. We will intensify our assistance to the coffee farmers by providing them with capacity building but also to provide them with some basic services they need like you mentioned: the water.

We will try to help them building rainwater harvesting schemes in their areas. At the same time, we have several microfinance programs and small enterprise financing programs that could provide funding as well for the processing and trade of coffee. Such assistance is available and accessible to the coffee farmers and coffee traders and those who are interested in processing.

TML: Looking at the rest of Yemen, the other industry that has room to grow is the grape industry. Are grapes second-class citizens to coffee beans?

Arhabi: No, I think we have assorted programs in the country to promote economic activities all over the country. Those are limited programs and cannot meet all the needs and demands for services all over the country so we have several programs targeting different sectors; different areas of the country; and also different products.

TML: What is your biggest frustration in speaking to the American or Western markets?

Arhabi: To the Western markets? Of course we want to have better access to those markets. At the present time, we are negotiating with the different countries for access to the World Trade Organization. Hopefully, we’ll get good deals in those negotiations with the different countries.

TML: When the Western world looks at the Middle East, almost reflexively the conversation comes around to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In reality, there are a number of other Middle Eastern issues. Here in Yemen, how does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rank among conflicts?

Arhabi: Well, this is a major conflict that is occupying everybody. I think everybody is very much interested to resolve this conflict. Everyone is interested in a fair settlement of the conflict. This is a very sensitive issue to all Arabs and Muslims in general and hopefully the Americans, the Europeans can really help in reaching a fair settlement for this issue and Palestinians can regain their rights again.

TML: Does it impact Yemen directly?

Arhabi: It impacts all Arab countries -- no doubt about that whatsoever.

TML: Issues of women in the region do not exactly fall under the category of your ministry, they are serious issues today in terms of the nation’s development. How do you rate Yemen ranks in terms of how its women are treated and its progress in that direction?

Arhabi: We have no doubt that the gender issue is a big issue in the country. It is being discussed at all levels. In the first place, we admit we have a problem and that's the first step toward doing something about it. We have several programs which are addressed toward women in this country.

Yemen is one of the first countries that signed several conventions and treaties related to women's rights and the gender issue.

The government is focused very much on girls' education. Girls' education is one of the areas that will help really enrich the level of equality between men and women; and will enable women to contribute substantially to the nation’s development.

If you look into Yemen now and compare it with the Yemen of two or three decades ago, you will see a big difference. The woman has really gained a lot during the last few decades and is now participating actively in the labor market.

The growth of employment of women in the government agencies is growing continuously; and the whole society now recognizes that women have their own advantages when it comes to the workplace.

They are recognized for being more disciplined and organized; and so there is a lot of acceptance for employment of women whether in the private sector or in government agencies. We made significant progress but of course it is not enough.

Within the plan for the next five years, we have a chapter on gender issues, so we will endorse several policies that will promote the development and participation of woman in business and government.

TML: Two issues women view as being seriously backward are healthcare for women and allowing women to take vacations from work. Are these going to be resolved in the near future?

Arhabi: These are some of the challenges that we are aware of and we are doing our best to deal with them. But as I said, the needs are huge and the resources extremely limited in this country.

TML: What is the biggest challenge you face personally in the next 10 years?

Arhabi: There are so many challenges but I think education is a very big challenge. We still have millions of kids who have no access to schools, who drop out.

We have problems of educational quality. We have problems to provide the right skill training that the market needs. I think the biggest challenge is education. Education can deal with other challenges, like population growth, health and other money challenges. So I think education is a big, big concern.

TML: Thank you very much for the time, Mr. Deputy Minister.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

An American woman peeks behind Yemen’s veil


Stereotypes of violence, oppression belie more nuanced reality with shopping malls and university educations for women in Yemen.

SANA’A, Yemen -- To Americans, Yemen is synonymous with Al-Qaida and terrorism. As an American journalist covering the Middle East, I had to responsibly check and double-check with colleagues, reporters, Americans stationed there before deciding to fly to Sana’a to see a country many know little about. I went to learn.

Yemen – bordering wealthy Saudi Arabia and Oman -- is one of the Middle East’s poorest countries, but beautiful and remarkable in an ancient way. Brownish houses framed with white etching and glorious, arched stained-glass windows line paved streets set among mountainous terrain.

Vast discrepancies between the rich and poor; the souk in the old city seen against a backdrop of dusk, created more the feeling of stepping onto a movie set (perhaps Arabian Nights?), filled with costumed men draped in robes, each with his requisite jimbuya – the ever present Yemeni sword worn in the belt.

Women in jelbabs, the full black gowns, all with hijabs, headscarves – some beautifully adorned and some black – and many with the black veil, the niqab, which antagonizes many Westerners.

I was set on de-mystifying the woman in the veil.

So, throughout the several days I spent in Sana’a, the capital, everywhere I went I spoke with women: young, old, poor, rich, married to one man, sister to other wives, even divorced (yes, women can divorce and even initiate a divorce in Yemen).

Covering a coffee conference promoting Arabica Naturals, there were many women – farmers, businesswomen and students – who were present. But it was the young university students, 28 and 29 years old, attending the University of Sana’a, who changed my perception of the veil. Not married at 15, as is the stereotype, these young women may be veiled, but are the rising stars of Yemen.

They want careers, marriage to one man and to improve the status of women in their country. A law raising the marriageable age for Yemeni girl to 18 is awaiting approvals.

Tradition, which has such a deep stronghold on society, has kept these women masked: afraid to push the envelope “too quickly.” It’s a small community, and it was made clear that everyone knows each other.

All I could see were the eyes. All covered in black. I watched the women sitting on benches set against a green-fabric-covered walled fence, each bench adorned with a big, round Pepsi logo, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and Baskin Robbins ice cream (Yemen has modern shopping malls, too).

It was simultaneously surreal and real. There were women smoking pipes and working on computers; drinking coffee at the local coffee-house owned by a lovely couple from Wisconsin who had relocated.

The tugging sides of Yemen, the ancient rituals and long tribal histories juxtaposed against modern and Western society today are the daily struggles these women face.

I was invited to a private Qat session, where women come together (as do men, separately) and chew this narcotic-like plant that is Yemen’s biggest cash crop. Unfortunately, this plant is the social-connect of the country. It also causes physical damage to agriculture as it sucks dry the water needed for the coffee plants.

Everywhere, people are seen walking around with a telltale lump protruding from beneath their cheeks, upsetting his or her facial symmetry. Since imbibing liquor is prohibited by Islam, the Qat sessions are the place to “let it all hang out.” Many come -- some chew, some don’t. Let the record show this reporter did not.

I entered the blue door of the home of one of Yemen’s most outspoken and prominent media personalities. Dogs inside and outside the home dispelled another belief about Muslim society. This powerbroker covered her head, but dressed in colorful street clothes, right down to her attractive sandals and polished toe nails.

This woman has publicly taken on the prime minister on issues of corruption, and is known for “breaking the glass ceiling.” Today, her passion is encouraging education and bringing women in media together.

I sat in the salon with low benches around the room, food around the floor and fascinating conversation filling the air. One by one, a woman would enter and disrobe, revealing fashionable, modern Western clothing.

The charming young photographer, who had accompanied me all day, was now dressed in a sleeveless sweater, miniskirt and a head of beautiful black curls that had been hidden from view during the many hours we had spent working together.

The Yemeni model had cleavage exposed and explained that she “had to try modeling to show I can be a Yemeni woman and do it.” Today, she works for an NGO.

The young Czech woman who worked on the Island of Socotra – an impoverished island, often without electricity – was present as well as the daughter of a diplomat close to the prime minister; a journalist whose husband doesn’t want her writing (“too many people will know you, but maybe you can write a book”) and the most interesting of all: a woman in charge of the mosque. She came from a strong, in-bred radical background.

Having fled to Yemen from Kuwait, she re-examined her life, intent on moderation. She, too, removed the naqab, and shared thoughts about women and their status in Yemen. She said she can accomplish more behind the veil.

Yemen’s future for women began in that room.

They turned to me in terms of the media’s role and vented their frustration that the “whole story – the good and the bad of Yemen – the truth” is not being told. I turned to them and said, “You have the collective power to change the next generation. Look how far each of you has gone in the last decade. Together, imagine what you can do in the future.”

There are more women than men in universities in Yemen. And slowly, women are occupying government positions. I interviewed a university professor who owns her own businesses and employs men. “It’s tough, but it’s changing,” she said.

I tried to compare these women to pre-suffrage in America in the early part of the 20th century. It’s difficult to envision it in 2010, but that’s where Americans need to try to place themselves in the shoes of these women and behind the veil.

Americans want to see their version of freedom and democracy be accepted overnight by Middle Eastern nations – an objective seen as unrealistic and unjust by the locals.

Look at the woman photographer who cannot photograph everywhere: she took her veil off and both her husband and father respect her for it. The woman journalist, who makes half the meager wages of her male counterpart, wants to learn and wants Western training in order to teach journalism to other women.

Although in her 40s, she has never married because she “doesn’t want to be subservient to any man.”

And then there’s a remarkable woman who is editor-in-chief of a local newspaper – rare in the Middle East – who I have known for years and whom I truly admire and now, have finally met. She is the sort of bold woman willing to do what it takes to break the glass ceiling.

Felice Friedson is president of The Media Line News Agency ( and can be reached at

Yemen accepts monitors for April poll: president

Source: AFP, 26/12/2010

ADEN, Yemen — Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday set April 27 for parliamentary elections that will be held in the presence of international monitors, and also urged the opposition to take part.

On December 14, Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) said the poll would go ahead in April with or without an opposition boycott over an amendment to the electoral law.

"We accept foreign observers, and also reiterate our call to our brothers in the parties of the 'Common Front' to take an active part in the poll and not to quibble over trivia," Saleh said in a speech in the southern port of Aden.

The official Saba news agency quoted him as "unreservedly" inviting non-government groups "from Yemen and brotherly and friendly countries to monitor the election."

Parliament's approval on December 11 of an electoral law amendment sparked an opposition sit-in and charges that the GPC had violated a 2009 accord to open dialogue on political reforms.

The amendment, originally proposed along with other political reforms in 2009, was passed by a parliament heavily dominated by members and allies of Saleh's party.

It stipulated that the high electoral commission be composed of judges rather than delegates from parties represented in parliament, as was previously the case.

The opposition said that by passing the amendment unilaterally, Saleh's allies had "put an end to the national dialogue."

The mandate of the current parliament was extended by two years to April 2011 following the February 2009 agreement between the GPC and opposition parties to allow dialogue on political reform.

Reforms that were to be discussed included a shift from a presidential regime to a proportional representation parliamentary system and further decentralisation of government -- measures that have not been implemented.

The opposition, which includes the Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) Party, the Yemeni Socialist Party and other smaller factions, said the passing of the amendment was "a conspiracy" against the 2009 accord.

On Sunday, Al-Islah MP Insaf Mayyo accused Saleh of seeking to "put pressure on the 'Common Front'," by launching the GPC's electoral campaign.

The grouping "has a programme of street demonstrations in the provinces to reject all anti-constitutional and unilateral measures by the ruling party," Mayyo told AFP without going into further detail.

AMF pledges $200-million-loan to Yemen

Source: AFP, 26/12/2010

ABU DHABI — The Arab Monetary Fund pledged a loan of $200 million to restructure the economy of Yemen, one of the region's poorest countries, the fund announced on Sunday.

The loan is to be used to "support an economic restructuring programme which Yemen is to achieve by 2012," the AMF said in a statement.

The programme aims to "increase revenues, streamline costs, strengthen financial management, and promote growth in non-oil sectors."

This raises to $808 million dollars the total amount of loans which the Abu Dhabi-based fund has granted Yemen.

Set up by the Arab League, the 22-member fund aims to help its members address major budget and balance of payments imbalances and to stabilise their exchange rates

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Friends of Yemen Group meeting to be held on time, says Yemen

Source: SABA, 26/12/2010

SANA'A-An official sources denied on Saturday allegations claiming the delay of the meeting of Friends of Yemen Group which is set to be held in Riyadh.

In a statement to Saba, the source said that preparations have been completed to hold the meeting and it will be conducted during March 1-2 as agreed with the Group.

It indicated that the meeting will be held after a ministerial meeting at the level of foreign ministers of the European Union in Brussels end of February 2011.

Yemen Announces Deployment of Anti-Terror Forces in 4 Southern Provinces

Source: VOANews, 26/12/2010

Yemen's Interior Ministry is announcing on its official website Saturday that the government has deployed new anti-terrorism forces to combat al-Qaida in four unsettled provinces to the south of the country.

The Yemeni government announcement that it is stepping up efforts to fight al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appeared to be steeped in symbolism. It comes exactly one year after a failed attempt by a Nigerian man, recruited by the group, to blow up an airliner bound for the city of Detroit in the United States.

The Yemeni Interior Ministry website, which put out the news, indicated that four separate and well-trained antiterrorism units were being set up to fight al-Qaida in the southern provinces of Shabwa, Abyan, Hadramawt and Marib.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a Yemeni government TV program Saturday that the country's armed forces are now well-trained and have taken great strides in recent decades. He said that our armed forces are not what they used to be in the '70s,'80s and '90s, but that their knowledge and competence has grown day after day in the light of their mastering of modern equipment and arms.

The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan had spoken with Mr. Saleh to urge him to "take forceful actions against al-Qaida," and to "thwart its plans to carry out terrorist attacks" in Yemen and elsewhere, including the U.S."

U.S. relations with Yemen in recent weeks have been touchy following disclosure of alleged U.S. State Department cables by the Wikileaks website claiming that President Saleh had promised to disguise covert U.S. airstrikes in Yemen on al-Qaida targets.

Princeton University Yemen scholar Greg Johnson argues that the Yemeni government has been under great pressure from the U.S. to "crack down on al-Qaida" and that Brennan's call to President Saleh along with several other factors spurred the Yemeni government to react. "I think all of these things have sort of coalesced and that's why the U.S. is very nervous (and) has been putting pressure on the Yemeni government, and then this is one of the ways the Yemeni government is responding by saying it's deploying four branches to fight al-Qaida in the provinces of Marib, Hadramawt, Abyan and Shabwa," he said.

Johnson points out that AQAP has also just put out the 14th issue of its internet propaganda magazine in Arabic, which also puts Yemen in a bad light. He adds that many in the U.S. are worried about the October mail-bomb plot and the activities of al-Qaida's notorious explosives expert Ibrahim al Asiri.

"Why the U.S. government is worried about this organization is because it's made a number of threats towards the U.S. in recent years, as well as last Christmas and then just a few months ago in October. .It's shown that it's capable of putting either would-be suicide bombers into the U.S. or putting bombs on planes that are bound for the U.S., and that its actions can match its rhetoric," he said.

U.S. officials also appear to be worried about the terrorist activities of American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Awlaki is thought to be hiding in Yemen's Shabwa Province.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Yemen-based group added to terror list

Source :BBC, 24/12/2010

The Canadian government has added Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to its list of banned terrorist groups.

The group recently claimed responsibility for a plot to ship explosives hidden in ink cartridges to the United States from Yemen. AQAP was also linked to a failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas.

It is a crime to knowingly participate in or contribute to the activities of listed groups, and penalties for breaking the law may include fines of up to $100,000 or up to 10 years in jail.

"One immediate impact of listing is that the entity's assets are frozen and can be subject to future seizure and restraint, and even forfeiture," the Ministry of Public Safety said in a statement.

AQAP, which is based in Yemen, was added to Canada's list on Thursday.

The last group to be added to the list was Al Shabab, a Somali insurgent group with links to al-Qaeda. Al Shabab was added in March 2010.

Ancient city discovered in Yemen Socotra Island

Source: SABA, 24/12/2010

SANA'A-Russian archaeological team has unearthed an ancient city in Socotra Island, the state-run reported on Friday.

After four-year archaeological excavations, the Russian team managed to discover an ancient city called "Khajlah" and located near Hidibu city, the main city in the island.

The city is dated back to the second century AD, according to the team's expectation.

The team said that the remains of the exposed ancient houses, roads, alleys and squares indicated that the city had been an administrative, religious and cultural area for the entire island.

In a related context, the Tourist office in the island said that about 2,590 tourists visited Socotra last November.

Socotra is an archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean. The largest island, also called Socotra, is about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago.

The island is very isolated and through the process of speciation, a third of its plant life is found nowhere else on the planet. It has been described as the most alien-looking place on Earth.

Botanical field surveys led by the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants - part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - indicate that 307 out of the 825 (37%) plant species on Socotra are endemic i.e. they are found nowhere else on Earth.

One of the most striking of Socotra's plants is the dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari), which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree. Its red sap was thought to be the dragon's blood of the ancients, sought after as a medicine and a dye.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Yemen fights to resist slick al-Qaeda output

Source: Financial Times FT,
By Abigail Fielding-Smith, 24/12/2010

“Islam is the religion of tolerance,” preaches the caller from a mosque’s loudspeaker in the old city of Sana’a. But those words merge with a different Friday sermon being delivered round the corner in the Yemeni capital.

“Allah, give support to the mujahideen and grant them victory,” booms Sheikh Abdullah Satar, a cleric and opposition figure.
The latter is a common sermon-closer. But Yemen is trying to help the first message rise above the ideological din, amid fears extremist organisations are gaining support in a poor country already facing multiple armed insurgencies.

These ideologies find their most alarming expression in the YouTube videos, statements and journals of al-Malahem, the media wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

AQAP, previously just one jihadi group among many, has enjoyed unprecedented publicity over the past year after claiming responsibility for high-profile attacks, including the recently intercepted parcel bombs on US-bound planes.

The organisation was born of the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda in 2009 after the kingdom’s counter-terrorism programme forced many jihadis to leave. As well as calling for jihad against western targets, it justifies its attacks on state security forces by arguing that President Ali Abdullah Saleh is an apostate, a campaign likely to have been boosted by WikiLeaks revelations of the extent of his co-operation with the US military.

Policymakers in Yemen and the west fear the threat posed to western countries and to Yemen itself by the spread of such ideology.

It is thought that AQAP members in Yemen are very few but that the message, disseminated through a slick media output, is resonating with a growing number of sympathisers.

AQAP’s Arabic magazine Sada al-Malahem (The Echo of Battles) and the English-language magazine Inspire contain profiles of jihadi leaders, ideological treatises, discussions of current affairs and tips on everything from avoiding cyber-detection to treating colds.

The founder of Sada al- Malahem is believed to have been killed by security forces, which is thought to explain recent irregularities in its publication schedule.

The October edition of Inspire contained an essay by Anwar Awlaki, described by one US counter-terrorism official recently as “the most dangerous man in the world”. He denounced arguments by scholars that Islam did not justify violence as “CIA Islam”.

Its short films, branded with al-Malahem’s logo in Arabic and English, have the kind of production values more associated with news documentaries than jihadi screeds. While much of their material is disseminated online, AQAP also use more traditional methods, such as flyers.

Government programmes are pushing a message of moderation to counter AQAP. “Those operating are only one manifestation of terrorism. We should first treat the ideology,” says Hamoud Hitar, the minister of endowment and guidance, the department in charge of regulating religious affairs in the country.

The National Commission to Raise Awareness, a civil society group with government links, is helping provincial activists spread the message of moderation by, for example, linking it to the distribution of social services. “If there are 100 people, and five are extremists, 95 aren’t, but the 95 are silent,” says Abdullah Abou Horia, deputy chairman of the commission. “We want them to be positive.”

Last month, the commission and others arranged for Amr Khaled, a popular Egyptian preacher, to speak in Yemen, inaugurating a programme training 1,000 preachers to counter radicalism in their sermons.

Mr Hitar, a scholar who led a dialogue initiative with imprisoned al-Qaeda members in 2002, believes the application of faith-based reasoning to the tenets of jihadi doctrine – specifically, that violence against the Yemeni government and the west is justified – can yield results. But Gregory Johnsen, an expert on AQAP at Princeton University, says that Yemen needs more heavyweights backing the strategy.

“There are no religious clerics with a mass appeal who are willing to come out and say al-Qaeda is wrong,” he says.

Moreover, Yemen appears to lack the res­our­ces to mount a sophisticat­ed media campaign against extremism, although the national awareness commission has taken out television advertisements.

Promoting moderate Islam is made difficult by the strength of Salafist ideology, which the government itself enabled to flourish. Although many Sala­fists do not advocate violence, Salafism is seen as providing the ideological and cultural foundations for al-Qaeda’s doctrines. The 1980s and 1990s saw the growth of Saudi-funded Salafi schools and mosques, as President Saleh used prominent Salafists, including veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, to help suppress the socialists of South Yemen during a brief civil war in 1994. “In the past they were jihadists; now they are terrorists,” says Sheikh Satar.

These extremist ideologies skilfully tap in to feelings of frustration among a young, poor and often jobless population.

“They [al- Qaeda] started to present themselves as a human rights NGO; they talk about violations of land, corruptions, detentions,” says Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, a pro-democracy activist, as he contemplates a recent YouTube video from the group. “Even the NGOs didn’t make as good a film as this.”

US Makes Yemen Assistance Top Priority

Source: VOAN(voice of America News)

One year ago, on Christmas Day, al-Qaida operatives in Yemen tried unsuccessfully to take down a U.S. airliner with a suicide bomber, who came to be known afterward as the "underwear bomber." One year later, the United States has substantially increased its financial assistance to Yemen and is trying to stabilize the middle eastern country.

In ancient times, Yemen was known as "Arabia Felix", meaning "Happy Arabia" Today, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40 percent unemployment. Thirty percent of its people are undernourished. The country faces political turmoil with Houthis in the north fighting the government. And rebels in the south calling for secession. Analysts say all this combines to make Yemen an attractive recruiting ground for al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, the most active node of al-Qaida's terrorism network.

In addition to assisting the "underwear bomber," the terrorist group is also accused of an October plot to send bombs aboard U.S.-bound cargo planes.

"Even if there were no threats to our security eminating from Yemen, the circumstances CUT TO would be more than worthy of America's attention. Yemen matters. The people of Yemen matter," said John Brennan, the top terrorism official at the White House.

With that in mind, the United States raised assistance to Yemen three times this year, to $300 million. That's more than a 1,200 percent increase over 2008 when the money topped out at $22 million.

Mohammed Al-Basha, a spokesman for Yemen's embassy in Washington, says his country is looking beyond Washington. "We're not just looking at the U.S. as being a funder. This is a problem that has to be addressed and supported by regional, international partners, " he said.

Christopher Boucek, who has written widely on the Middle East, says the U.S. should offer more. "The scope of American involvement does not match the rhetoric and the importance that Yemen poses to American domestic security," he said.

Boucek says that security was recently compromised by Wikileaks. One classified cable, published by the website, revealed that Yemen's nuclear material was left unsecured for a week. Another has Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh claiming responsibility for air strikes on al Qaida which were actually carried out by the U.S.

Boucek says al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, will use these revelations in their recruiting. "For sure this will be used by the AQAP [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] to show, 'the regime is not acting in your interest This is not a legitimate government,'" he said.

To this, Brennan argues al-Qaida will twist anything it can to benefit its cause. "They are a bunch of murderous thugs. They are individuals who are determined to destroy and kill," he said.

Meantime, most of the remaining detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, about 40, are Yemeni Nationals. Brennan says the U.S. has no indication that the eight already repatriated from Guantanamo have returned to terrorism. Many say a post-release support program will guarantee they do not.

But like everything else, that costs money. "The daunting social and economic challenges. That's what keeps me up at night," Al-Basha said.

Analysts agree the only policy that will ultimately work in Yemen is two-fold: an emphasis on security and on reform, including economic, social and political.

Yemen received an increase in U.S. aid in 2010. Experts say any success will require more in 2011

Cable: Yemen removed nuclear storage site's

Source: World Tribune, 24/12/2010

LONDON — Yemen, despite U.S. appeals, has suspended security measures at its nuclear storage plant.

A U.S. embassy cable reported fears of an Al Qaida attack on Yemen's National Atomic Energy Commission, which contains radioactive material. A memorandum to the State Department asserted that the Yemeni facility contained no protection.
"Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen's nuclear material," the January 2010 cable, released by WikiLeaks, said.

The cable from the U.S. embassy was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Copies were also relayed to the CIA and FBI.
The Yemeni facility was said to have removed its lone guard in 2010. The facility contained one closed-circuit video security camera, broken in mid-2009 and never repaired.

The National Atomic Energy Commission was said to store large quantities of radioactive material. This included substances ordered by hospitals, universities and the energy sector.

Officials were said to have feared that Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula could steal the nuclear material from Yemen. They said AQAP could assemble a so-called dirty bomb that could harm people and disrupt the economy. The administration of President Barack Obama refused to comment.

"Post will continue to push senior ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government] officials to increase security at all National Atomic Energy Commission facilities and provide us with a detailed accounting of all radioactive materials in the country," the cable said

Yemen's President Underlines Eagerness to Expand All-Out Ties with Iran

Source: FNA, 24/12/2010

TEHRAN- Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih stressed his country's enthusiasm for the development of relations with Tehran in all fields, specially in economic and cultural arenas.

He made the remarks in a meeting with Iranian president's special Envoy Hamid Baqayee on Wednesday, expressing his serious will for expansion of economic, social and cultural relations with Iran.

Pointing out that negative propagations have created serious obstacles in the way of the two nations and the two countries' relations, reiterating, "Very excellent relations between the two nations and the two countries should exist, since inappropriate relations among the regional countries is to the benefit of no one, and Iran and Yemen are no exceptions to that rule."

The Yemeni president said that Sana'a has always defended Iran's right to have access to the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes at entire international gatherings and would always keep on doing so.

Pointing out that Yemen's stand towards Tehran is clear and transparent, the Yemeni leader expressed wish that Tehran's stand, too, would reciprocally be as clear and as transparent, adding, "We believe Iran is a very proud country that has achieved broad and noticeable advancements, believing that this might and power should be taken advantage of in favor of strengthening the foundations of peace and security among the neighboring and Muslim countries."

President Ali Abdallah Salih considered regional security very important for the region, arguing, "Generating, or supporting regional insecurity is to no one's benefit, and therefore, we are fully ready to host the IRI president, because Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit of Yemen can be a very important step for the expansion of bilateral ties."

The Head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Baqayee assured President Salih that the entire expressed precious points would be conveyed to the IRI president.

"Iran is not a threat for any of the regional countries and the existing negative propagations are the product of the international Zionism that is never agreed with the improvement of relations among Muslim countries, or with their getting strong," he emphasized.

He announced Tehran's readiness for taking practical and seriously steps aimed at solving the entire existing problems and obstacles in favor of the restoration of friendly ties, announcing and assuring that Iran truly respects Yemen's political and territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"Negative remarks and media propagations in this respect should be totally ignored, and naturally such obstacles can be easily removed relying on the wisdom and sagaciousness of Mr. Ali Abdullah Saleh and Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," Baqayee added.

Pointing out that expansion of friendly ties with every country, particularly the neighbors, is a priority in Tehran's foreign policy, he added, "The old, good bilateral relations must continue with a positive approach at a broader level in the future."

Baqayee also conveyed a message by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to his Yemeni counterpart.

Yemen invested international concern successfully, minister

Source: Saba, 23/12/2010

SANA'A- Yemeni government and diplomacy has successfully invested the international concern in favor of the country, the 26 September Weekly Newspaper quoted on Thursday Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi as saying.

In an interview with the 26 September Weekly Newspaper, al-Qirbi said that the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Yemen's Friends in Riyadh during next February would handle the development requirements in Yemen, whether in economic or security aspects , as well as supporting the political issues treated by the government.

He expressed his hope that the Riyadh meeting would be an identifying mark in the developmental cooperation, calling on Yemen's friends to push forward the existing cooperation from the stage of words to the stage of actions in order to improve citizens' living conditions, create job opportunities, and uproot poverty.

Al-Qirbi revealed that the National Committee to deal with the file of Yemen's Friends, led by Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, is preparing three files to be submitted to the meeting as well as a timetable and priorities.

Yemen hopes that the positions of Friends would be translated into financial commitments covering the financial requirement for the implementation of projects and plans, al-Qirbi pointed out.

He noted that Yemen is in need to achieve an economic growth through attracting investments to the country and opening doors for Yemeni labor in the GCC countries, affirming that these issues would occupy the forefront in the Riyadh meeting

WFP supports Yemen's food security efforts with 77 million US$

Source: Yemen's official news agency (Saba)


SANA'A-The World Food Programme (WFP) has approved the allotment of USD 77 million to support Yemen's efforts to combat poverty and improve the food security indications.

In a statement to Saba, Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Hisham Sharf pointed out that the WFP decided to raise the ceiling of its support for Yemen during 2011-2012 to reach USD 77 million.

This support would be dedicated to help the poor who suffer from lack of food security and to enhance the Yemeni government's efforts in the field of humanitarian relief, Sharaf made it clear.

He indicated that this support is provided through contributions of several donor countries to Yemen, and comes within the understanding of the donors' community for the importance of supporting the humanitarian relief efforts in Yemen.

The government's trends during the coming period would focus on supporting the poor and achieving food security and improving the humanitarian relief efforts, Sharaf said.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the government would pay great attention to the improvement and provision of education and health services at the targeted areas in cooperation with Yemen's development partners, including the WFP.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

In poverty-struck Yemen, al-Qaida a low priority

Source: AP, 23/12/2010

SANAA, Yemen— A doctor would have recognized the signs of chronic malnutrition immediately in the 7-month-old girl — the swollen stomach, the constant cough. Her mother, though, had only traditional healers to turn to in her Yemeni mountain village, and they told her to stop breastfeeding.

Her milk had spoiled, they said. Their solution: stuff the baby's nose with ghee.
When that didn't work, the young mother, Sayeda al-Wadei, made the arduous 60-mile journey through the mountains to the closest hospital with facilities to treat her daughter, in the capital Sanaa.
More than 50 percent of Yemen's children are malnourished, rivaling war zones like Sudan's Darfur and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. That's just one of many worrying statistics in Yemen.

Nearly half the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn't have access to proper sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Water is running out. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding into cities.

The government is riddled with corruption, has little control outside the capital, and its main source of income — oil — could run dry in a decade.

As a result, al-Qaida is far down on a long list of worries for most Yemenis, even as the United States presses the government to step up its fight against the terror network's affiliate here.

Donor nations are meeting in February in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to gather millions of dollars for development in Yemen. Aid groups, economists and officials are scurrying to develop poverty reduction and economic restructuring plans for this nation of 23 million.

The United States has already dedicated $150 million in development money, alongside its counterterrorism aid to fight al-Qaida, which is to grow to from $150 million to $250 million over the next year. Other donor countries have given millions more, acknowledging that the terror network cannot be uprooted unless Yemen is pulled out of poverty.

"The neighboring countries and Europeans and U.S. have a lot at stake, not only in Yemen, but in the Middle East. I don't think anyone wants to see Yemen failing," said Benson Ateng, the World Bank's Yemen country manager.

Some aid workers fear that the government, which clings to power through patronage, will direct aid to allied tribes while leaving others out in the cold, fueling resentment. A focus by donors on steering aid to areas with a known al-Qaida presence, not necessarily the poorest zones, may also backfire.

"Donors are focusing on development as a tool to address security issues, and not as an end in itself," said Ashley Clements, Oxfam representative in Sanaa. "There is a risk that the tendency will increase over the years. Focusing on one issue alone will be to the detriment of the well-being of Yemen's people."

Malnutrition typifies how overlapping problems lead to crisis. Much of Yemen's agriculture — and 30 percent of its water — has turned to cultivating qat, the mildly stimulating leaf that Yemenis addictively chew, leaving the country a net food importer with little cash to pay for it. At the same time, health infrastructure and education is lacking, the rate of breastfeeding for children under six months is only 10 percent.

Moreover, the rise in malnutrition was able to pass largely unnoticed because the weak government was not keeping valid statistics and had no commitment or ability to head it off.
"There is no single other country in the world where we ever have seen such high levels of malnutrition," said Greet Cappelaera, Yemen country director of UNICEF.

At the Sanaa hospital, al-Wadei's daughter Maram has recovered after treatment. But another of her four children — a 2 1/2-year-old daughter — can barely stand, another malnutrition symptom, and the family can't afford to treat her.

"I don't want kids anymore," mourns al-Wadei. "I don't even want myself."
Yemeni officials say their resources are strained by security challenges, including a northern rebellion, a southern separatist movement and al-Qaida.

"If there is no security and stability, there will be no development, no poverty alleviation and no investment," said Hesham Sharaf, deputy minister of planning and international cooperation.

Oil revenues make up at least three-quarters of the government budget, but oil production is steadily declining. Yemen could become a net importer in the next five years and its oil reserves could run out completely by 2021, according to IMF and World Bank estimates.

What development there is in Yemen is a patchwork, depending on where the government has thrown its limited cash. Oil money has fueled a consumption boom among a small slice of the population. In Sanaa, new hotels and restaurants have arisen, along with shopping complexes boasting Baskin Robbins branches and Porsche and BMW dealerships. Large video billboards advertise new housing projects.

But just beyond the capital's edge, rural Yemen immediately emerges, with little infrastructure. Donkey carts replace SUVs, and government authority largely vanishes, replaced by highly independent local tribes.

In Wadi Dhaher, a village just 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside Sanaa, floods have left mud houses partially demolished and deserted. Muddy roads lead to the village's qat plantations, which consumes most of the village water.

For water, Wadi Dhaher relies on a local well dug 400 meters (yards) deep to search for disappearing ground water, despite a national law limiting wells to 60 meters (yards) to prevent overconsumption.

Its residents belong to the Hashed tribe, which is nominally pro-government but brooks little interference from authorities.

"We are self-sufficient here," said Abdullah Muhsen, a 27-year-old who operates the village bath. "Our authority is the (tribal) sheik. Even the president needs his approval."

In a country with the seventh highest population growth in the world — 2.9 percent a year — the tens of thousands of Yemenis entering the work force each year find few opportunities. Many pour into Sanaa for jobs, straining the infrastructure.

Mourad Hamoud dropped out of high school in the southern town of Taiz and moved to Sanaa, hoping for a government job. But he found such jobs go mainly to northerners, so he opened a barber shop. "I couldn't keep up with studying and working," he said. "If things were right, I wouldn't have to leave studying to work."

Mohammed Abdel-Malik Mutawakel, a Sanaa University political science professor, said the danger is that Yemen's youth find "the economy is closed to them."

"So they will only think of a political struggle," he said. "If that also is closed. they will fight then, either through al-Qaida, the southerners, or any other way."

Ahmadinejad seeks warmer ties with Yemen

Source: AFP, 23/12/2010

— Yemen's president received a letter from his Iranian counterpart on Wednesday seeking to strengthen ties undermined by alleged Iranian support for a rebellion in the Arabian Peninsual country's north.

In the letter, delivered by Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghaei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated his country's "concern and will to develop relations and promote cooperation in various fields," state news agency reported.

In a reply, Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh called for "strengthening relations with Iran ... to serve the common interests" of both countries.

Relations turned cold after Yemen accused predominantly Shiite Iran of aiding rebels of the Shiite Zaidi sect during the latest round of fighting last year in an on-and-off conflict that has been running for six years.

That fighting ended with an uneasy truce in February, which has been repeatedly shaken by clashes between the rebels and pro-government tribes.
In late March, Saleh repeated these accusations, pointing to Iranian clerics who have supported the Zaidi rebellion.

The rebels have repeatedly denied accusations of military support from Iran.

Founder of local al-Qaida media arm killed in clashes with Yemeni troops

Source: Xinhua


The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing announced the founder of its Arabic-language media arm was killed in one of the clashes with Yemeni troops over the past few months in a statement posted on jihadist forums on Tuesday.

Nayefbin Mohammed bin Saeed al-Kudari al-Qahtani, a 24-year-old Saudi national who is the founder of the official media arm of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Al-Malahim Foundation, was killed in a gunfight with Yemeni security forces in the past few months.

The statement of AQAP did not specify where al-Qahtani was killed, but said he traveled from Saudi Arabia to Yemen in early 2007 and stayed with some Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaida members in Waila tribe in the northern Yemeni province of Saada.

The AQAP's statement also revealed that al-Qahtani took part in a suicide car bomb attack in the Yemeni northeast province of Marib on July 2, 2007, which killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemeni drivers.

Shortly after the attack, the al-Qahtani's idea of establishing the group's media Al-Malahim Foundation was approved by the head of al-Qaida in Yemen, Nasir al-Wihayshi.

Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, is facing a growing resurgent al-Qaida threat. It has launched a continuing anti-terrorism campaign since 2009, including air raids against al-Qaida militants in several southern and eastern provinces.

The Yemeni government has come under increasing pressure from the International community to turn its focus on fighting al-Qaida within its borders after the AQAP claimed responsibility for two parcel bombs shipped through planes bound for the U.S. in October.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Yemen tells Interpol to arrest 36 terrorists, 53 criminals

By Nasser Arrabyee/22/12/2010
The Yemeni authorities asked the Interpol to arrest 90 persons including 36 terrorists, said a security official Wednesday.

Five Saudi nationals and two Somalis are among those to be arrested by the Interpol the Yemen’s ruling party website ( quoted unnamed security official as saying.

The request to Interpol came after the Yemeni authorities did their best to arrest them but without success, the official said. The wanted persons might have left Yemen to some where else, the offficial said.

The official said, the most dangerous in the list are : Samee Hameed Abdullah Al Dhele; Abdul Hamid Mohammed Abdullah Al Hubaishi; Abdullah Omar Hajjam Al Hassani; Mohammed Ali Abdullah Al Nashiri; Mohammed Ameen Mohammed Al Zubiadi .

The 36 are accused of planning to carry out sabotage and terrorist acts against Yemeni foreign interests including security installations in the provinces of Sana’a, Aden, Abyan, Shabwah, Hadhrmout,and Sa’ada. The others are accused of criminal acts, the official said.

US-Yemeni cleric a threat on par with bin Laden: US 0fficial

Source: AFP, 21/12/2010

WASHINGTON — US-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki is a top terrorism threat on par with Osama bin Laden, the top US law enforcement officer said Tuesday.
"He's on the same list with bin Laden," said US Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking on US television.

"He's up there -- one, two, three, four. I don't know. He's on the list of people that worry me the most," Holder told ABC television news.

Al-Awlaki, an American citizen who remains at large in Yemen, is suspected of being a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and of instigating a string of attacks against the United States.

"He has shown a desire to harm the United States," Holder told ABC.
"We want to neutralize him. We'll do whatever we can to do that," he said.

Yemeni authorities, under mounting US pressure to fight Al-Qaeda after a foiled air cargo bomb plot, charged Awlaki last month with alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and and ordered his arrest by any means possible.

The Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb plot and as well as for the September downing of an American cargo plane in Dubai.

The cleric has not immediately been linked to the parcel bombs, but American officials have long accused him of instigating terrorism from Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding in a remote area of Shabwa.

US officials said they believe Al-Awlaki has links with Major Nidal Hasan who is has been charged with shooting dead 13 people at Fort Hood military base in Texas.

They also believe that the outlaw cleric had contact with Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged "underwear bomber," accused of trying to blow up a plane over the US on Christmas Day last year.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been under intense pressure from Washington to hunt down Awlaki.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Security developments in Yemen

Source: Reuters, 20/12/2010

Yemen is battling a wing of al Qaeda that has become increasingly active in the country. The security situation is of particular international concern because the impoverished state is a neighbour of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer.

Yemen is also trying to cement a truce with Shi'ite rebels to end a civil war in the north, and to end a separatist rebellion in the south.

Following are security developments in Yemen in the past month (* denotes new or updated item):

* HABILAYN, Dec 19 - Government troops seal off the southern town of al-Habilayn as they hunt those behind an attack that killed at least three soldiers and an army officer on Thursday, a local official says.

ADEN, Dec 19 - Armed militants seize a Yemeni soldier in a southern town to press for the release of three detained men, the head of an opposition group tells Reuters.

SANAA, Dec 17 - Police say they prevented a man from bombing a U.S. embassy car in Sanaa, and were investigating whether the Jordanian suspect had ties to al Qaeda.

ZINJIBAR, Dec 17 - Two soldiers are killed and two more are wounded in clashes with suspected al Qaeda militants early Friday morning, a local security official says.

HABILAYN, Dec 16 - Four soldiers, including an army officer, and a unidentified gunman are killed in gun battle in a market in the southern province of Lahj, a local security official says.

LAWDAR, Dec 15 - One solider is killed and 3 others wounded in a gun battle with suspected al Qaeda militants in the southern province of Abyan, according to a local security official.

ZINJIBAR, Dec 13 - Head of political security in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan is lightly wounded in a roadside bombing targeting his car, according to a local official, who says al Qaeda is likely behind the attack.

SANAA, Dec 11 - About 10 people are killed in fighting between northern Shi'ite rebels and tribesmen who often side with the government. A rebel spokesman declines to confirm the toll.
ADEN, Dec 13 - Five soldiers and one army officer who were kidnapped in a secessionist hotspot in south Yemen at the weekend were released.

ADEN, Dec 11 - A court sentences a man to death for a bombing which killed four people at a sports club in Aden in October, sparking days of demonstrations.
LAHJ, Dec 11 - Unidentified gunmen kidnap two soldiers in the southern province of Lahj, local officials say.

ADEN, Dec 11 - A court in the southern province of Hadramout sentences 12 people to up to seven years in jail for links to al Qaeda, state media report.
SANAA, Dec 9 - Police arrest eight people suspected of planting a bomb that ripped through a market and injured 13 people on Dec 8.

SANAA, Nov 29 - Armed tribesmen free the head of a Saudi hospital in Yemen hours after abducting him, after receiving assurances about their demand for the release of detained kinsmen.

DUBAI - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claims responsibility for a Nov. 24 car bombing in an Internet statement.

SAADA, Nov 26 - A car bomb in Saada, in the north, kills two people, including an attacker, and wounds eight in a convoy of Houthis, a Shi'ite rebel group.
AL JAWF, Nov 24 - A car bomb kills 23 people at a religious gathering of rebels in Jawf province in the north.

SHABWA, Nov 11 - Masked gunmen wound two soldiers manning a checkpoint in Shabwa province. (Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf in Aden, and Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; Compiled by Gulf bureau)

Yemen nuclear material 'easy target for terrorists': cable

Source: AFP, 20/12/2010

LONDON — A Yemen government official warned US diplomats that poor security meant there was little to stop terrorists getting their hands on the country's nuclear material, a US cable showed Monday.

At one point there was practically nothing protecting the material at Yemen's National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), according to the diplomatic dispatch dated January 9 this year.

The lone security guard at the facility had been removed and the only closed circuit TV security camera had broken six months earlier and had never been fixed, said the cable.

"Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen's nuclear material," the official warned American diplomats, according to the cable released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks and revealed in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

The cable revealed, however, that in the days following the official's warning, the radioactive material was moved to a more secure facility and the remainder of it was likely to follow, said the Guardian.

The dispatch was sent in the aftermath of the plot to bomb a plane trying to land in Detroit on Christmas Day last year and describes the worried official imploring the US to help find a swift solution to the problem.

It showed him asking the US to "convince the Yemen government to remove all materials from the country until they can be better secured, or immediately improve security measures at the NAEC facility."

According to the cable, classified as secret by the US ambassador Stephen Seche, the material included products used in a hospital, in universities and for agricultural research.

There are fears radioactive isotopes could be used to make a dirty bomb, according to the Guardian. This mixes simple explosives with radioactive materials, which it would then disperse over a wide area, said the paper.

Although unlikely to kill a large number of people, the device could contaminate large areas with radioactivity.

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the failed bid on December 25, 2009, to blow up a US-bound airliner.

The group also claimed responsibility for October's failed cargo plane parcel bomb plot.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Yemeni troops reinforce tense south

Source: AFP, 19/12/2010

ADEN, Yemen — Yemen sent reinforcements to its southern province of Lahij on Saturday as hundreds of people protested against the killing of a militant in clashes with the army, witnesses and officials said.

Dozens of troop carriers, tanks and other armoured vehicles were en route to Habilayn in Lahij province from Taez province farther north, witnesses told AFP.

Hundreds of supporters of the Southern Movement, whose members want either independence or increased autonomy, took to the streets of Habilayn on Saturday in protest at the killing of Abbas Tanbaj, a wanted member of the group.

On Thursday, militants shot dead two soldiers after they killed Tanbaj.
A security official in Habilayn said that a soldier was found dead late on Friday, raising the military's death toll from the clashes with southern militants since Thursday to five -- four soldiers and an officer.

Local officials and tribal dignitaries have been locked in negotiations with the military in an attempt to convince it to withdraw from the restive town, a tribal source told AFP.

But a security official said the authorities were determined to restore "security and order" in Habilayn and nearby towns, raising fears of renewed fighting.

The Southern Movement generally holds protests on Thursdays to demand the release of detained activists.

South Yemen, where many residents complain of discrimination in the distribution of resources on the part of the Sanaa government, was independent from 1967 until it joined with the north in 1990.

The region seceded in 1994, sparking a brief civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

Friday, 17 December 2010

US Official: CIA officers escape Yemen attack

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. official confirms the four Americans who narrowly escaped a attack on their vehicle in Yemen's capital worked for the CIA.

None of the agency employees were hurt in the bombing that took place Wednesday outside a restaurant in Hadda, a commerical district in the capital. The bomb went off under a pick-up truck carrying the U.S personnel.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because details about the incident remain secret.

The official said there was "no indication that the perpetrators knew specifically who they were targeting."

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa previously put out a statement on its website that "foreign residents ... were targeted for attack" Wednesday, but did not give further detail.

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.