Yemeni Diplomat: Funds Needed For Al-Qaida Fight

Yemen's permanent representative to the United Nations says his country needs more money to get rid of al-Qaida. But Abdullah al-Saidi says he does not want the U.S. to go in and do the job itself. The comments follow attention on Yemen after the failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Joining us now is Abdullah al-Saidi, who is the permanent representative of Yemen to the United Nations.

Ambassador Saidi, welcome to the program.

Ambassador ABDULLAH AL-SAIDI (Permanent Representative of Yemen, United Nations): Thank you.

SIEGEL: Last week, after the December 24th airstrikes on an al-Qaida base in your country, there were claims that the American-born Imam Anwar al-Awlaki had been targeted and possibly killed. Can your government now either confirm or deny that?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: The information we had was that he was in the meeting in Shabwa province, which was attacked. Until now, we do not know for sure who were killed. But we know the leadership of al-Qaida and Mr. al-Awlaki was attending that particular meeting.

SIEGEL: Ambassador al-Saidi, is it fair to say that Yemen has stepped up operations against al-Qaida bases there, only after the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have urged you to do so and given you money to do so?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: No, I don't think this is a fair claim. Yemen has been fighting al-Qaida for some time. Given its meager resources, probably the impact on the operation of al-Qaida was not as effective as we all want it to be.

SIEGEL: Twice this month, there have been airstrikes on al-Qaida targets in your country. Can we expect further airstrikes? And can we expect Yemeni troops on the ground to actually go in and take over bases where al-Qaida is training people?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: I think you should expect that. I think there are constant campaigns. As a matter of fact, yesterday and the day before there were campaigns against the al-Qaida. We are not going to let them rest or retreat and then reform themselves.

SIEGEL: If indeed there is a link between what al-Qaida is doing in Yemen and a young man who tried to crash - explode an airplane and crash it into Detroit, would the U.S. be justified in staging its own airstrikes against targets in Yemen? Would your government, if not welcome, not object to that act?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: No. We will take care of this problem ourselves and we are capable of doing so.

SIEGEL: But in fairness, Mr. Ambassador, you've been suggesting that you're not capable of doing that, that you're under-resourced and that the country is very poor.

Amb. AL-SAIDI: Yes. But with cooperation with other countries, we can do it. But we have the capabilities, and they can be - we can be strengthened further and we can do these things. And I think that is much more productive than the way you're suggesting. But we need greater coordination in the intelligence field. I think it's obvious if we have had information about Mr. Abdulmutallab, who was in Yemen studying Arabic, if we have the information, we could have arrested him in Yemen before he proceeded further.

SIEGEL: If Yemen had received information, which simply said, Mr. Abdulmutallab's father in Nigeria has gone to the U.S. and said he's concerned about his son's whereabouts, he's involved with militant Islamists, on that basis, Yemen would have detained him?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: Yemen would have pursued him and knew his connections. And if his connections and the people he is dealing with are suspicious, we would have taken measures.

SIEGEL: After the fact, has your government pieced together what he did in Yemen and can you confirm that he had those connections?

Amb. AL-SAIDI: Yemen is now undertaking investigation as to his connections in Yemen, and we will share this information with our partners in the United States and other areas.

SIEGEL: Ambassador al-Saidi, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Amb. AL-SAIDI: You're welcome, sir.

SIEGEL: Abdullah al-Saidi is the permanent representative to the United Nations of Yemen.

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