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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Saleh's Visit To

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 003297

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA, NEA/ARP, NEA/PD, NEA/RA, DS/OP/NEA AND
S/CT CENTCOM FOR POLAD
NEA/PPD FOR AFERNANDEZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM KMPI PGOV PHUM PREL YM
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: PRESIDENT SALEH'S VISIT TO
WASHINGTON

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Expectations were high for President
Saleh's Washington trip and the general consensus in the
press has been that the visit was largely successful. It
appears, however, that the outcomes of the visit have not yet
fully been conveyed to the media. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) PRE-VISIT MEDIA: Expectations were high for Saleh's
visit before it began. All major outlets covered Saleh's
departure and speculated about the range of bilateral issues
to be discussed: primarily, cooperation on the war on terror
and U.S. developmental aid to Yemen. Several media sources
described a planned protest by Yemeni opposition figures in
the United States, members of the Washington-based Southern
Democratic Alliance. In an interview with Alsahwa.net (news
website of opposition Islah Party), Mohammad Al-Mutawakel,
Assistant Secretary General of the opposition Popular Forces
Union, anticipated that the USG would leverage this protest
to pressure Saleh to meet U.S. demands.

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3. (U) OVERALL CONCLUSIONS: The media assessment of the
visit as a whole has been mixed but largely positive.
Al-Thawra (primary government organ) described the visit as a
success and reported the USG had expressed its support for
Yemen's democracy, development, and efforts to combat
terrorism. Al-Thawra flagged that, as a sign of the close
relationship between Yemen and the U.S., President Bush gave
Saleh a pen. 26Sep.net (news website of Armed Forces-funded
daily) quoted President Saleh saying his visit was
"successful and fruitful." Saleh said he discussed with
President Bush American support for Yemen's economic
development and U.S.-Yemeni cooperation in the war on terror.
He added that Yemen's efforts in the war on terror were
appreciated by the USG and that Yemen and the U.S. share many
common views on the Horn of Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Al-Rai Al-Hur (nominally independent, pro-government weekly)
reported that the Islah Party was disappointed by the visit,
as there were no "positive outcomes" in the cases of either
Sheikh Al-Mo'ayyad or Sheikh Zindani.

4. (U) ASYLUM REQUEST: Shortly after the conclusion of the
Washington leg of the trip, local press reported on the
intent of one member of the official visitors to seek
political asylum in the U.S. On November 14, Alsahwa.net
(Islah-affiliated news website) reported that Hamza Saleh
Moqbel had declared his intention to join the Yemeni
opposition in the United States. Moqbel is a former YSP
member and advisor to the Governor of Al-Dali. His
son-in-law is the Chairman of the Al-Dali Chamber of
Commerce. Interviewed by phone, Moqbel reportedly said that
his decision was made in view of Yemen's worsening
conditions, rampant corruption, absence of rule of law, and
harassment of domestic opposition. The news site reported
further that an official statement denied Moqbel had
accompanied Saleh to Washington, but that Moqbel invited
public investigation of Post's list of accompanying travelers
to refute the official statement. Al-Ayyam (independent
Aden-based daily) confirmed Moqbel's request for asylum on
the same day. On November 16, Alsahwa.net reported that
Al-Dali police arrested Moqbel's son-in-law, Saleh Ali, for
"illegally nominating" his father-in-law to accompany
President Saleh during the U.S. visit. Al-Dali police were
also reportedly questioning civil authorities in Al-Dali for
issuing Moqbel identification papers.

5. (U) AL-JAZEERAH PROGRAM: On November 14, satellite
channel Al-Jazeerah broadcast a program on Yemeni-US
relations in view of Saleh's visit to Washington. The
program featured Foreign Minister Al-Qirbi, former Ambassador
Edmund Hull, Faris Al-Sanabani (Deputy Press Secretary to
Saleh and Publisher of the English-language Yemen Observer),
Mohammad Al-Mutawakel (Assistant Secretary General of the
opposition Popular Forces Union), U.S. journalist Jane Novak
(a frequent commentator on Yemeni affairs), and most
surprisingly, Hamza Saleh Moqbel, the member of Saleh's party
who had declared his intention to seek asylum in the United
States.

6. (U) Asked about his decision to seek asylum, Moqbel said
that he was "fed up" with being treated as a second-class
citizen "because he is a southerner." Hull remarked that the
ROYG and USG had coordinated the attack that killed Abu Ali
Al-Harithi near Marib in 2002. He further mentioned that
US-Yemeni cooperation is focused on development and security
and encouraged further reforms in Yemen. Novak charged that
Yemen's theological dialogue with Islamists is a public
relations ploy and alleged that some prisoners have been
given positions with the security forces after their release
from prison. She criticized President Saleh's control of all
authority, including the military, the judiciary, Parliament,
and the official media, and denounced the state of corruption
in Yemen, including the smuggling of oil and arms "with the
assistance of Yemeni officials." She also highlighted the
continuing harassment of journalists. Sanabani responded
aggressively, accusing Novak of defaming Yemen's image abroad
and calling her "an unemployed mercenary." FM Al-Qirbi
invited Novak to visit Yemen and to see its democracy for
herself. He added that President Bush did not discuss with
Saleh the latter's decision to step down for the upcoming
elections and added that Saleh has not retracted that
decision. Al-Mutawakel attributed terrorist acts in Yemen to
the absence of democracy, justice, and political reforms. He
also voiced his skepticism about American support for
emerging democracies, arguing that the U.S. "seeks only its
own interests."

7. (U) RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP: In his interview with
26Sep.net, Saleh claimed to have carried a message from Syria
to the USG, though he did not describe the contents of the
message, and expressed his hopes that differences between
Syria and the U.S. will be amicably resolved. On November
19, however, Al-Wahdawi.net (news website of the Nasserite
Party weekly) reported that a senior US official disputed
Saleh's assertion, saying that Saleh had not conveyed a
Syrian message to President Bush. On a separate issue,
NewsYemen.net (independent news website) reported on November
17 that several jihadists have been re-arrested following a
request made directly by President Bush to Saleh. The report
cited Ahmad Haidarah Abu Bakr (alias Abu Al-Asha'th) as its
source. (Note: Al-Asha'th is currently in police custody.)
On November 16, Raynews.net (website of liberal opposition
Rabita party) quoted a senior State Department official as
saying that the USG is disappointed by Yemen's lack of
exertion against official corruption and that the Secretary
prodded Saleh in their meeting to increase the pace of
reform.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: No Yemeni media outlets have yet published
any reports regarding Yemen's status in the Millennium
Challenge Account, a USG decision that if public, would be
likely to generate considerable comment and criticism. While
the very fact itself of Saleh's visit is justifiably viewed
as a positive step, full public disclosure of the sometimes
difficult decisions and meetings during the trip may affect
public perceptions of its success as they emerge. End
comment.
Krajeski

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