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Middle East
Yemen opposition 'willing to tackle al-Qaeda'
Official says opposition will sign deal with West to tackle fighters if Saleh steps down.
Last Modified: 29 May 2011 16:00

Yemen's opposition would be willing to sign an agreement with the West to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen, if Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's president, steps down, according to an opposition official.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Abdel Rahman Ba Fadel, a member of Yemen's opposition Islah party, said that the country's opposition had contacted the office of the US ambassador in Yemen to this effect.

"We are in contact with the EU and the United States embassy in the country ... and we've said we are ready to sign an agreement with them immediately the day Ali Saleh leaves," he told Al Jazeera.

"We are ready to sign an agreement [for] fighting terrorism together ... for one year minimum that can be renewed. So that they can be sure from their side that we are with them against terrorism."

The US embassy in Yemen was unavailable for comment when contacted by Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Town attacked

Yemen has been beset since January by protests calling for Saleh to step down.

Saleh has ruled the country for more than three decades and has received strong backing from the US on the understanding he is tackling al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Abdel Rahman Ba Fadel told Al Jazeera the
opposition was ready to tackle al-Qaeda

The Yemeni president has warned that without him, al-Qaeda would seize control of Yemen.

Ba Fadel also suggested that Saleh had exaggerated the threat al-Qaeda posed within Yemen.

"Al-Qaeda in Yemen is just 10 per cent of what Ali Saleh says [it is] and he's encouraged them," he said.

But on Friday, gunmen alleged to be al-Qaeda fighters reportedly took control of the southern coastal town of Zinjibar, the capital of the southern Abyan province.

More than 200 fighters were said by security officials to have attacked the town and fighting there has reportedly left 21 people dead.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Yemeni generals who have defected from Saleh's camp accused the president of surrendering Abyan province to the fighters in a move aimed at keeping himself in power.

Saleh blamed

In "Statement Number One" the generals, who are led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, whose troops now control part of the Yemeni capital of Sanna, accused Saleh of "surrendering Abyan to an armed terrorist group".

The Common Forum parliamentary opposition coalition also blamed Saleh for the situation in Zinjibar.

In a statement it said that he had "delivered Zinjibar to groups that he has formed and armed, to continue to utilise the spectre of al-Qaeda to frighten regional and international parties".

Mediation efforts aimed at ending the political crisis in Yemen have so far failed.

On May 22, Saleh refused to sign a Gulf Co-operation Council-backed agreement that would have seen him cede power within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

A day later fighting broke out in Sanna between Saleh's forces and followers of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, an opposition tribal chief who heads the powerful Hashid federation.

Ahmar's fighters seized various government buildings during the clashes, which lasted from May 23 to 26, but on Sunday began vacating them following tribal mediation, according to a mediator.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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