Saleh: Yemen not a collaborator with the US [Archives:2004/766/Front Page]

August 23 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

Last week, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that even though Yemen is cooperating with the United States to fight terrorism, it is not a US collaborator.
“We are not allies of America or collaborators, but we cooperate with the Americans within the framework of the international community in order to combat the world's evil, terrorism,” said Saleh during an interview with Beirut's daily As-Safir last Thursday.
The President also said that although the United States has given assistance to military training and financial aid for the country's development, Yemen “did not give the Americans any military bases, or airports or ports.”
Saleh added, “Even if the Americans gave us no assistance, we would have cooperated with them in combating terrorism.”
Saleh criticized the United States for being biased towards Israel during the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for carrying out double standards with regards to the implementation of international resolutions.
“It doesn't appear that the President has changed Yemen's position in the international political arena,” said a Yemeni analyst. “But the President probably delivered a message to make a clear distinction between fighting terrorism and America's foreign policy in the Middle East.”
The Yemeni government joined the United States to fight terrorism soon after terrorist attacks in America on September 11th 2001. Since then, Yemen has rounded up hundreds of suspects, including key Al-Qaeda members. Now on trial are six suspects allegedly involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000 and 15 others believed to have taken part in the attack on the French tanker Limburg in 2002.
Yemeni forces are also battling with an armed rebel group in north Yemen. Clashes between Yemeni troops and followers of Hussein Al-Houthi, a leading Shiite Muslim cleric, have lasted for over two months and it is reported that between 600 and 900 people have been killed.
The Yemeni government accuses Al-Houthi of promoting violent anti-US and anti-Israeli protests. He established a group called “Believing Youth” and is believed to have secretly trained his followers to form an armed militia at his stronghold in the Saada province 240 km (150 miles) north of Sana'a.
The President impressed during the interview that Yemen will not send troops to Iraq while the US-led occupation continues.
“It is an ill and occupied country,” said Saleh. “We will not participate in any force helping the occupiers … If occupation ends and if the Iraqi people demand the deployment of Muslim and Arab forces under the umbrella of the United Nations or the Arab League, we will be ready to send troops.”
“It makes sense that an Arab country does not want to send troops to Iraq right now,” said the analyst. “It would not look good to the people that they have soldiers working alongside the Americans, and it is probably too dangerous for anybody wanting to send troops now.”
Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi asked Muslim countries to send troops to help stabilize the war-torn country. His appeal came soon after Saudi Arabia delivered a proposal to bring Muslim forces together to assist bringing peace to Iraq where violence continues.