DUBAI, (Reuters) – Yemen is making progress in cracking down on al Qaeda with the help of regional and Western powers but some media have exaggerated the size of the problem, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was quoted on Saturday as saying.
Sanaa is taking military action against al Qaeda, whose Yemen-based regional wing claimed a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound airliner in December.
Saleh praised links with Western and Gulf Arab allies, including member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, saying that an exchange of information had led to “good results” in the battle against al Qaeda.
“We have struck them and there is co-operation between us and neighbouring states, with Saudi Arabia at the forefront and the rest of the GCC states in addition to the European Union and the U.S.,” he said in an interview with al-Hayat newspaper.
Saleh added that the size of al Qaeda in Yemen had been exaggerated by some media, the newspaper reported.
Western powers and neighbouring Saudi Arabia fear that instability in Yemen, where the government is also fighting two separatist rebellions, may allow al Qaeda to strengthen it operations.
Last week Saleh declared an end to a long-running war with northern Shi’ite rebels that drew in Saudi forces last year.
Al-Hayat newspaper reported the president as saying that the rebels had received donations locally and regionally and had bought weapons from “arms dealers and regional powers”.
Saleh has made similar remarks about regional countries before in an apparent reference to Iran. Tehran rejects the accusation.
Referring to violence in the south of the impoverished Arab country, Saleh said “the culture of separatism was limited, isolated and spent”.
North and South Yemen united under Saleh’s presidency in 1990 but many people in the south, home to most Yemeni oil facilities, complain that northerners have used unification to grab resources and discriminate against them.