Sources close to the Yemeni President Ali Abd Allah Salih said the joint manoeuvres between the US and Yemeni army, navy and the air forces would go ahead despite the head of the US Central Command General John Abizaid calling off his Yemeni visit.

Official government sources in capital Sanaa have said Abizaid is due in Yemen on Saturday to observe the war games, which are to be staged off and around Yemen's southern port city of Aden.

Abizaid, however called off his visit at the last minute due to current developments in Iraq.

US gesture

Seven gunboats delivered by Washington to Yemen last week as part of stepped-up military cooperation between the two countries in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, would join the joint manoeuvres.

Yemen, at the request of the US, has cracked down on suspected members of al-Qaida.

Seventeen US sailors died and 38 were wounded when suspected al-Qaida bombers blew up the American destroyer USS Cole in Aden on 12 October 2000.