Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Yemen offered US ‘open door’ to al Qaeda: cables


Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh secretly offered US forces open access to his country to launch attacks against al-Qaeda targets, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and cited by media on Friday.

Saleh told US President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, in September last year: “I have given you an open door on terrorism. So I am not responsible,” according to reports in the Guardian and the New York Times.

Both newspapers said that in fact Yemen has put limits on access by US forces to avoid domestic criticism in the poorest country in the Arab world, which Washington fears has become a haven for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The group has launched a number of attacks on targets in the West, including failed plots to bomb cargo airliners in October and to destroy a US passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day last year.

Saleh admitted lying to his people that US cruise missile attacks on al-Qaeda there last December were the work of Yemeni forces, with the support of US intelligence authorities, the papers said, citing the leaked cables.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command, on Jan. 2, the Guardian said.

Petraeus was in Sanaa to tell Saleh that Obama would allow US ground forces using intelligence from satellites or aircraft to be based in Yemen to help with counter-terrorist operations.

Despite his suggestion of an “open door,” Saleh turned down the offer due to concerns about US casualties.

However, Saleh did agree to allow US bombers to circle out of sight beyond Yemeni territory “ready to engage Aqap targets should actionable intelligence become available,” the Guardian reported.

Saleh preferred precision-guided aircraft-launched bombs to ship-launched cruise missiles that were “not very accurate,” according to the cables, the newspaper said.

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