We will continue our fight against al-Qaeda: President Saleh

p>SANA'A, March 27 (Saba) - President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said that Yemen's decision to hunt for al-Qaeda came early because the country believes that terrorism represents a danger to its security, stability and development. In an interview with the PBS news station, President Saleh said that Yemen will continue to pursue al-Qaeda suspects until they surrender or they were killed, affirming that al-Qaeda poses a threat to Yemen's ties with its neighbors and friends. On the other hand, the President said that there are no U.S. troops on the Yemeni soil because there are no reasons for their presence in the country, adding that Yemen never signed any deal allowing a U.S. presence in the country. Moreover, President Saleh said that all what has been said about corruption in Yemen is groundless and comes within the aggressive campaign against the Yemeni regime. In reply to the U.S. advice for Yemen, the president said that Yemen appreciates the U.S. cooperation and interest in resolving its problems. On the U.S., he said Yemen-U.S. ties are deep rooted and the two countries have a good partnership in the fight on terror or to boost development. The following is the full interview with President Saleh. [PBS]: Mr. President, thank you for having us. [President Saleh]: We are considering our fight against the elements of al-Qaida here in Yemen because of their terrorist actions either against the U.S. interests or against the Yemen interests. We are hunting them down. And we are doing this in a relentless way. We are not going to retreat, never. And we will continue our fight against them, unless they announce their repentance or stop or abandon or relinquish completely the acts of terrorism and acts of violence. [PBS]: Washington is very pleased that you have stepped up your fight against al-Qaida here on the security side. What prompted you to do that? [President Saleh]: Actually, our actions against al-Qaida is not new. We have been doing this since long time ago. But we doubled our actions recently, because the pressure on us, on the security apparatuses and authorities, were reduced after the war in Saada has come to a halt in the north of this country. We were busy completely with the war in Saada. But our actions against al-Qaida are continuing. And, of course, the halt of the war in Saada will increase our efforts against al-Qaida. [PBS]: Washington has been concerned that, in the past, your commitment has been episodic, intense at times, then less so. Are you saying it's different now? You really are going to stick with this? [President Saleh]: The position to follow up and to hunt down the elements of al-Qaida is a position taken in the past, in the present and in the future. We are going to follow up these elements until they surrender or demolish them completely, because they caused very severe acts of violence against the tourists and the Yemeni authorities. Also, they damaged the security and the stability, the economy of Yemen. So, our political position is the same in the past, the present and in the future. We are not going to retreat. [PBS]: Now, recently, however, you did also offer to talk to al-Qaida or negotiate with al-Qaida. What did you mean by that? What was your intention there? [President Saleh]: Actually, we are -- we have not closed the door of dialogue, but, at the same time, we are not seeking for dialogue with al-Qaida. But, if the elements of al-Qaida came to us, they want to surrender, of course, there will be no problem. [PBS]: But that is a negotiation. [President Saleh]: If they come to us surrendering or handing themselves over -- even the United States of America is negotiating with some elements in Afghanistan with Taliban. If they are going to revert to peace, there is no reason to stop dialogue with them. [PBS]: Now, the relationship with the United States, there's been doubling of military aid just in the past year. I think it's up 10-fold since 2008. Are you getting what you need from the U.S.? [President Saleh]: The U.S. assistance to Yemen and aid are symbolic. They focus on the exchange of information, in the field of training, providing some equipment, military equipment, and medium equipment to the Yemeni military at the cost of about 150 million U.S. dollars. This is a good thing, a good cooperation, but, of course, such assistance and aid does not resolve the economic problem in Yemen. [PBS]: You had an interview Friday night with Al-Arabiya, Arabic satellite television, where you made a point of saying there are no U.S. troops here in Yemen. Why? Why was that important to say? [President Saleh]: This is normal, because there are no U.S. troops on Yemeni territories, neither offshore or onshore. There are some elements who are going -- making training for Yemeni personnel. I wanted to confirm to the world, to the Yemeni people that there was no U.S. troops. At the same time, we have no agreement, we have no treaty with the U.S. on the presence of U.S. troops in Yemen. [PBS]: What would be the consequence if the Yemeni people thought there were U.S. troops either here or on the way? [President Saleh]: Actually, there's no reason that U.S. troops be in Yemen. And we don't have any intentions here in Yemen -- and we believe the same with the U.S. They don't have any intention to have their troops here in Yemen, because there is no justification for their presence here in Yemen. [PBS]: As you know, there is great concern about the degree of corruption here. And that's one reason why the aid that was agreed to several years ago by the international community, most of it never came here. What are you doing about that perception and, at least in the view of most international observers, the reality that a lot of money that is given here in assistance is not spent for the purposes it was intended, and does go to benefit the private interests of people in the government and inner circle? [President Saleh]: These are mere lies. This information are baseless, and it is not true. It's within the framework of a campaign of lies against Yemen, unfair campaign against Yemen, against the security and the stability and democracy of Yemen. [PBS]: How do you see the United States? Is it an adviser now? Is it a partner? What word would you use? [President Saleh]: We look at it on two tracks. The U.S. is a partner in combating terrorism. And we are satisfied for the cooperation and coordination having with them. At the same time, we value the consultations that the U.S. is providing Yemen with in the fields of development, in the field of politics. And we welcome such consultations. [PBS]: Mr. President, thank you very much. [President Saleh]: Thank you. FR/YA Saba