Yemen warns U.S. intervention could strengthen al-Qaeda

The Washington Post - 06 January 2010 - From Sudarsan Raghavan

SANAA, Yemen -- In its strongest language yet, Yemen's government declared Thursday that there are limits to its military cooperation with the United States, warning that any direct U.S. action in this impoverished Middle East nation could bolster the popularity of Islamic militants.

"If there is direct intervention by the United States, it will strengthen al-Qaeda," warned Rashad al-Alimi, Yemen's deputy prime minister for security and defense. "We cannot accept any foreign troops on Yemeni territory."

The statement underscored the rising concern among Yemen's leadership of a domestic backlash that could politically weaken the government and foment more instability. In recent days, top Yemeni officials have publicly downplayed their growing ties to Washington, fearing they will be perceived by their opponents as weak and beholden to the United States.

Alimi, speaking at a crowded press conference Thursday, also said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian suspect who allegedly tried to bomb an American airliner on Christmas Day, had likely met with Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi. Aulaqi is also linked to Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major who is charged with killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Tex., on Nov 5. (...)