|03SANAA3016||2003-12-23 12:30:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Sanaa|
1. SUMMARY: U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Phil
Reeker visited Yemen during December 8-11. He held an open
meeting with the press in Sana'a December 9th attended by
journalists and correspondents of local newspapers,
international news agencies and Arab TV channels including
Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazira. The discussion covered issues of
counter-terrorism, Iraq, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict,
the road map, and the U.S.-Yemeni security co-operation.
The visit was covered by a few Yemeni newspapers including
the most widely-circulated Aden-based Al-Ayyam independent
daily. END SUMMARY.
2. Phil Reeker held an open discussion with Yemeni
journalists (December 09) giving a "nutshell approach" to
the relationship between U.S. State Department spokesmen and
media in the U.S. He discussed how spokesmen work with the
media and explain U.S. policies. He told reporters
attending the discussion that "Powell's one instruction in
how we spokesmen do our jobs is to always tell the truth."
Journalists were expecting Reeker to comment on U.S.-Yemeni
relations, U.S.-Yemen counter-terrorism co-operation and al-
Qaeda in Yemen and questions revolved around these issues.
Reeker told journalists that the aim of the visit was to
open up discussion and dialogue with journalists and listen
to their comments on U.S. policies. Questions focused on
U.S. aid to Yemen, and the possible release of any Yemeni
prisoners from Guantanamo, Iraq and Palestine. Al-Jazira's
correspondent reiterated Yemen's Prime Minister's comments
on October 3rd that the U.S. is making difficult demands on
Yemen in terms of counter-terrorism while offering little
aid in return. Al-Arabiya's correspondent referred to the
question of Palestine and "the sufferings the Palestinians
are going through in light of a total U.S. bias to Israel"
which he described as "the main cause that motivates
terrorists and extremists to commit crimes."
3. Independent English-language Yemen Times bi-weekly
(12/11) published a report on Reeker's visit with a bold
headline reading: "Reeker: Fighting terrorism (in Yemen) is
Yemen's primary responsibility." On the Guantanamo
prisoners' issue, Yemen Times quoted Reeker as saying that
"the U.S. Defense Department and other officials are working
to quickly resolve the problem of al-Qaeda detainees at
Guantanamo." "However" Yemen Times added "Reeker
spotlighted the growing level of cooperation between his
country and Yemen in fighting terrorism and that the whole
world should join hands to fight terrorism since al-Qaeda is
not merely targeting the U.S." Yemen Times also quoted
Reeker as saying that his visit to the region was part of
the U.S. Administration's efforts to bridge the gap and
misunderstanding between the U.S. and Arabs.
4. Aden-based Al-Ayyam independent daily (12/13) published
an interview with Reeker covering issues on: the U.S.
initiative on democracy for the Middle East, democracy in
Yemen, the local council system in Yemen and the U.S.
policies in the Middle East. As far as Palestine and the
road map are concerned, questions indicated that "the Yemeni
public bears a sense of dissatisfaction toward the U.S.
policy with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts" and
that "the road map has become a dead initiative." Some
questions carried a critical tone to the U.S. for
"neglecting" the problems of Somalia and for not getting
involved in Somalia as strongly as it does in the Middle
5. Pro-Iranian Al-Balagh independent weekly (12/16)
published a report titled "former U.S. Spokesman says al-
Qaeda is regrouping in the Arab Peninsula." The report said
Reeker has admitted that the risk of al-Qaeda's presence in
the Peninsula is increasing and that they still pose a
threat to the whole region and not to the U.S. interests
alone. "The statement," Al-Balagh added, "came in reply to
the al-Balagh reporter's question which asked for Reeker's
comments on a recent statement released by al-Qaeda in Yemen
threatening attacks against U.S. interests in the region."
6. Al-Balagh (12/16) published an op-ed commenting on
Reeker's statement that State Department spokesmen have
always to tell the truth. The article commented that "media
in the Arab and Muslim world, on the one hand, and the U.S.
administration on the other, are at variance mainly due to
the boiling issues of Iraq and Palestine." "America" the
article said "wants the Arab and Muslim journalists to
support its mission in Iraq and wants us to shake hands with
Sharon and carry out Bush's democracy in our countries,
while forgetting that it (the U.S.) has marginalized
international laws with its rockets and troops in Iraq."
The article concluded that "we hope that Reeker would tell
the truth and convey our messages and concerns over Iraq and
Palestine to the U.S. Administration as he had promised."
7. A journalist from Armed Forces weekly 26 September
newspaper conducted an interview with Reeker December 11th
covering issues on Yemen's co-operation with the U.S.-led
international counter-terrorism campaign, Iraq and
Palestine. The interview was supposed to come out Thursday,
December 17th, but the interviewer said it will be published
in the next week or two.