Yemeni president expresses 'regret' over remarks

WASHINGTON- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called a senior White House aide Wednesday to express regret for his searing criticism of Israel and the United States over the Arab uprisings, officials said.
Saleh called President Barack Obama's top anti-terrorism advisor, John Brennan, a day after the White House complained he was scapegoating, after he described the Arab uprisings as an Israeli plot backed by Washington.

Yemeni president expresses 'regret' over remarks
"President Saleh called assistant to the president, John Brennan, this morning to convey his regret for misunderstandings related to his public remarks that Israel and the United States have engaged in destabilizing activities in Arab countries," the White House said in a statement.
"President Saleh also said that he is firmly committed to meaningful political reform in Yemen and that he is reaching out to opposition elements in an effort to achieve reform through a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful process.
"Mr Brennan expressed appreciation for the call and said that any comments that seek to attribute blame for recent developments in the region are unhelpful, as they ignore the legitimate aspirations of people in the Arab world."
Brennan also encouraged Saleh to continue trying to reach out to opposition groups, amid mass protests against his rule in Yemen, and called on all sides of the political dispute to eschew violence.
Saleh is a key US anti-terror ally for Washington, largely due to the presence on Yemeni soil of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has plotted several recent foiled attacks against the United States.
But he complained on Tuesday about Obama's critiques of the wave of protest and revolt sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, accusing Washington of backing an Israeli plot.
In an address at Sanaa University, Saleh said "the events from Tunisia to Oman are a storm orchestrated from Tel Aviv and under Washington's supervision."
"What is taking place on Yemen's streets is just a copycat attempt," he said. The protesters are "led from outside" and are in the pay of "Zionists," he charged.
Saleh lashed out at Obama for his repeated calls for restraint by Arab regimes that had long been key allies and his support for the popular protests that ousted veteran leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.
"Every day we hear a statement by Obama... (saying) Egypt don't do this, Tunisia don't do that... What does Obama have to do with Oman, what does he have to do with Egypt? You are the US president," he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, however, said Tuesday that Washington wanted the Yemeni leadership to focus on political reforms that would respond to the "legitimate aspirations" of its people.
"We don't think scapegoating will be the kind of response that the people of Yemen or the people in other countries will find adequate," he said.
Events in Yemen have placed Washington on a now familiar tightrope strung between protesters seeking reform and an authoritarian ruler who has acted to further US national security interests under strong American prodding.
Saleh's speech on Tuesday took place as the opposition hailed its biggest protest yet against his three-decade rule.
The Yemeni leader, in power since 1978, has repeatedly rejected domestic calls for his resignation.
His one concession has been to pledge not to seek re-election in 2013, which the opposition has dismissed as inadequate.

Thursday, March 3rd 2011

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