Yemen’s sole presidential candidate who will be voted in this week is committed to “destroying” Al-Qaeda, US Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan said on Sunday in Sanaa.
Brennan who met on Saturday in Sanaa with Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi — the sole consensus candidate in Tuesday’s polls – said he was “very encouraged by (Hadi’s) comments” on Al-Qaeda.
“He is committed as well to destroy Al-Qaeda and I consider him a good and strong counterpart,” Brennan told reporters.
State news agency Saba meanwhile quoted Hadi as saying that “the terrorist Al-Qaeda organisation must be fought and its presence in the Arabian Peninsula must be put to an end.”
“This needs a meaningful international cooperation,” said Hadi.
Hadi’s comments came after a meeting with Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the British House of Lords, who is visiting Sanaa ahead of presidential Tuesday’s election, Saba said.
Yemenis will hold referendum-like presidential polls Tuesday in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh will officially hand power over to Hadi, under a Gulf-brokered power transfer plan signed by the outgoing leader in November.
Yemen has been gripped by over one year of protests against Saleh’s 33-year-long rule.
The uprising has weakened the central government’s authority, allowing Al-Qaeda militants to strengthen their presence in the lawless south and southeast.
But Saleh’s opponents accuse him of having used Islamist militants as a tool against them, even though he repeatedly declared himself an ally of the United States in its “war on terror.”
“There are some individuals in Yemen who have exploited Al-Qaeda’s presence for their own interests,” said Brennan. “We find it outrageous for any members of the Yemeni government or the Yemeni global system to do so.”
“In my previous visit I had spoken directly to Yemeni officials about the need to do more against Al-Qaeda, and to dry up their sources of support.”
When asked about the US role in fighting Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Brennan said: “We provide to the Yemeni units that fight Al-Qaeda advice, assistance and equipment.”
The New York Times reported in June that the United States had stepped up its attacks on militant suspects in Yemen with armed drones and fighter jets.
The Yemeni government has repeatedly denied direct US involvement in the fight against Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, saying it only provides logistical support.
Local residents and officials in the southern and eastern provinces however insist that US drone aircraft regularly carry out attacks on suspected Al-Qaeda operatives.