CIA deputy chief in Yemen for talks on al-Qaeda

May 30, 2009 - 0:0

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) -– The CIA deputy director coordinated with Yemen's president Thursday on fighting al-Qaeda and also discussed the fate of some 100 Yemeni detainees locked up in Guantanamo Bay.

Stephen Kappes made an unannounced visit to the country to meet President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, about 170 miles south of the capital San'a. Saleh's office said they discussed security cooperation and combating terrorism.
The impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian peninsula, a U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism, has re-emerged as a potential base for al-Qaeda. Two Saudi former Guantanamo detainees are believed to be leading Yemen's branch of al-Qaeda.
The country has also been rocked by a recent flare-up of violence in the south, where separatist sentiment is mounting against the central government. Southerners accuse the central government of marginalization. The north and south fought a civil war in 1994.
Kappes and Saleh also talked about the fate of the Yemeni prisoners in Guantanamo, said security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
President Barack Obama wants to close Guantanamo, a Navy detention center that houses suspected terrorists. But the discussions over where to send the Yemeni detainees have delayed plans to close it.
The Yemenis are the largest national group among the 241 detainees still at the prison. Obama's administration has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia and Yemen for months to send them to Saudi terrorist rehabilitation centers.
Earlier this month, Obama spoke directly with the president of Yemen about the detainees and also discussed how their countries could work together on counterterrorism policy.
Saleh has resisted the idea of sending the detainees to Saudi Arabia, saying his country would set up its own rehabilitation centers. But his office said Thursday he is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks on security issues and other matters.