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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03SANAA1190
2003-05-28 15:35:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Sanaa
Cable title:  

IRAN'S PRESIDENT KHATAMI VISITS YEMEN: NO

Tags:   ETRD  KCRM  PGOV  PREL  SNAR  IR  YE 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 001190 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2013
TAGS: ETRD KCRM PGOV PREL SNAR IR YE
SUBJECT: IRAN'S PRESIDENT KHATAMI VISITS YEMEN: NO
NOTICEABLE EXCITEMENT

REF: SANAA 1188

Classified By: DCM ALAN MISENHEIMER FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (E)

------
SUMMARY
-------



1. C) Iranian President Mohammed Khatami's May 15/18 visit to
Yemen was low-key, almost pro forma, with little public
exposure and no overtures to Yemen's large Shi'a community.
Although six cooperative agreements were signed, in areas
from security to shipping, the accords broke little new
ground. The joint statement released on his departure was
anodyne, calling for "foreign troops to end their occupation
of Iraq." Relations have improved in recent years and
Khatami showed a friendly face. But the visit does not seem
to signal great advances in mutual confidence. End Summary



--------------------------


LOW-KEY FORMALITY


--------------------------





2. (C) Iran's President Mohammed Khatami, returning ROYG
President Salih's 2002 visit to Tehran, was welcomed with all
presidential courtesies in Sanaa on May 15. His schedule was
formal, with few public events. All proper protocol was
observed, including joint arrival statements with television
coverage. The two presidents were photographed beaming
cordially across the interpreter; in a rare departure from
his usual formal habits, President Salih wore Yemeni native
dress, with the traditional jambiah dagger in his belt.



--------------------------


PHOTO OPS


--------------------------





3. (C) Khatami's official meetings were appropriately
scheduled with the highest ranking local notables, including
Speaker of Parliament, Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, Shura
Council head, Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, and Prime Minister
Abdul Qadir Ba Jammal. Katemi also had an unusual private
meeting with Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president's 33
year old son who commands the Republican Guard, but no
substantive military contacts. The opening greetings at all
these meetings were duly photographed for television and
newspapers, but the conversations were merely summarized as
"friendly exchanges of views."



--------------------------


WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN


--------------------------





4. (C) Khatami did not address any public gatherings during
his visit, such as university students or parliamentary
groups, did not meet with any local Shi'a clerics, and gave
no interviews to the local media. He visited Sanaa's famous
Grand Mosque (which dates from the seventh century founding
of Islam) but as a tourist rather than a worshiper. Local
television covered President Salih attendance at Friday
prayers at the same mosque, escorted by his usual retainers
but without his Iranian visitors.



--------------------------



THE AGREEMENTS


--------------------------





5. (C) The two sides signed agreements in six areas,
including security, trade, development and economic
cooperation, banking, education and culture and shipping.
According to one Yemeni contact in the Ministery of
Development and International Cooperation, the two agreements
signed in his office were "fill in the blanks" documents with
few specific references to Yemeni conditions. Press accounts
of the security accord refer to increased cooperation on
fighting drug trafficing and organized crime. (Other details
about security cooperation are reported reftel.)

6.(C) The more specific agreements focused on trade,
education, and shipping. Bilateral trade has grown tenfold
since 1990 and Iranian goods are increasingly found in local
markets, including machine tools, pharmaceuticals, and small
buses. (These products often beat European, Asian and
American products on price, FOB Aden, and are considered good
quality by local merchants.) Iranian companies have completed
several projects here, including the Socotra airport strip,
improvements to Hodeidah's oil port anchorage, and road
paving works. In education, Iran offered a number of
scholarships and exchange programs as well as a schedule for
increased "cultural functions." The shipping agreement
reflects Yemen's need to increase traffic through the port of
Aden; more Iranian cargo and tanker ships would be most
welcome, whether to transship goods, or merely for bunkering
stops.




--------------------------


THE JOINT STATEMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) The anodyne joint statement signed by Salih and
Khatemi may also have been a cut and paste exercise: there is
little to distinguish Yemen's document from other stops on
Khatami's Arab Tour 2003. Predictably, both leaders praised
brotherly relations, called for immediate withdrawal of
foreign troops from Iraq, stressed the pivotal role of the UN
and renewed their dedication to the legitimate rights of the
Palestinian people, including Jerusalem as their capital.
They did strongly denounce and condemn terrorism, but drew a
distinction between it and "legitimate national resistance"
movements.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------



8.(C) Khatami's recent tour focused on Arab countries with
large Shi'a communities embedded among Sunnis. But, in Yemen
at least, pastoral or leadership pretensions were not
apparent. He seemed to go out of his way to be
non-threatening to his Yemeni hosts, who had viewed past
Iranian leaders with deep suspicion. The visit had some
practical benefits: ROYG President Salih enjoys the prestige
of international visitors, growing commercial ties make
economic sense, and poor Yemeni students, especially those
majoring in religious and legal training, will gratefully
accept scholarships to Iran. However, as one MFA contact
commented, the visit did little to strengthen ties between
Yemen and Iran, because no one expects Khatami to hold power
much longer "between you Americans and the Mullahs."
HULL