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Yemeni foreign minister criticizes embassy closures - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A general view shows the compound of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa August 7, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

A general view shows the compound of the US embassy in Sana’a on August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

London, Washington and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat–Yemeni foreign minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi condemned measures taken by a number of Western countries on Wednesday, saying they did not help the fight against terrorism in Yemen. The measures he criticized include the evacuation of their citizens from Yemen and the extension of the closure of their embassies, out of fear of possible terror attacks.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, Qirbi said: “The situation in Yemen is stable and is different from two weeks ago, even much better than before.”

He added: “We appreciate the measures taken by the Western governments to protect their staff and embassies, but at this time, we see them as not helpful to the efforts to fight terrorism,” and that “the way the Western countries dealt with this situation does not reflect the ability to confront and deal with the event, but serves the terrorists’ interests.”

Qirbi said Yemen’s achievements in dealing with Al-Qaeda and fighting terrorism are well documented and that Yemen was able to protect the foreign embassies on its territory, and therefore he did not see a reason for diplomatic missions to leave the country.

He said: “The dangers posed by Al-Qaeda are not confined to Yemen. The West closed their embassies in 19 countries but the focus on Yemen was probably caused by the presence of one of Al-Qaeda’s leaders in the country.”

The Yemeni government responded strongly to the evacuation of Western diplomats, adding in a statement that it did not deny the presence of security threats, but that these measures did not serve the interests of both sides.

An official Yemeni statement said such measures undermined the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international coalition against terrorism, adding that local authorities took all necessary measures to guarantee the safety and security of foreign missions.

The United States, along with a number of other Western states, advised its nationals to leave Yemen and extended the closure of their embassies due to security threats, which it said it discovered from intercepted calls between Al-Qaeda leaders including Ayman Al-Zawahiri and his deputy, Nasir Al-Wuhaishi, in Yemen.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the measures “were not an evacuation or a closure of the embassy, but a reduction in the number of diplomats.” She said: “Our aim is to protect American diplomats and citizens abroad. We take measures like that every day, according to threats.” She added that “the recent warnings were caused by specific and confirmed information . . . and we cooperate closely with the Yemeni government and Secretary John Kerry talked yesterday on the phone to President Hadi and praised his efforts in fighting terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Yemeni government spokesman Rajih Badi told the French news agency AFP yesterday that Yemeni authorities disrupted a major Al-Qaeda plan to attack two cities in the south and take control of oil installations.

Badi said: “The main aim of the plan was to take control of Mukalla and Ghayl Ba Wazir in the south,” indicating that the plan included an attack on vital oil installations near Mukalla, the capital of the Hadramout region.

Mohammad Ali Salih contributed reporting from Washington.