In a speech before the members of Yemen’s People's General Congress (PGC) on Monday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that Yemen would not hand over any al-Qaeda suspect to foreign states and would not allow any state to interfere in Yemen's internal affairs.
Speaking at the concluding session of the sixth general conference of the People's General Congress, President Saleh said he had sent emissaries to al-Qaeda suspects in the governorates believed to be harboring them, telling them to surrender themselves and give the information they have while assuring them that the would be safe. "We told them the accused is innocent until proved guilty, we would not hand them over to the Americans," the President said.
There are hostile and opposing forces, the President added, who do not want any security and stability for Yemen. They deter the wanted persons from surrendering themselves to the state by telling them "they would extradite you to Americans". President Saleh confirmed, however, that "There are some elements in jails who were detained after the Cole attack and some of them after the September 11th incidents, and some are still fugitives."
President Saleh claimed that the members of the al-Qaeda and Jihad organization had been misguided and deceived, and the do not know anything. He said that when they are asked why they went to Afghanistan, they simply say “to declare Jihad". In order to deal with the religious misconceptions, a committee made up of Islamic scholars has been formed to conduct dialogues with those elements, the President said.
Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has seen Yemen as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda members, and has been putting continuous pressure on the Sana government to undertake action against these persons and their local hosts. American pressure has included grants of millions of dollars in aid and military equipment, alongside open threats of economic sanctions or even direct American military action against Yemen. Among the demands that the U.S. has made is that Yemen arrest and extradite al-Qaeda suspects, and that CIA officers be allowed into the country and given investigative authority.
The Yemen authorities have launched several military operations into the semi-autonomous interior provinces where the al-Qaeda suspects were believed to be sheltering. Heavy fighting has taken a toll of government troops who met fierce resistance from local peoples sheltering the suspects. (www.albawaba.com )
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