- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

The United States received specific threats against Vice President Richard B. Cheney's life before his March 14 meeting in Yemen with President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In an exclusive interview with United Press International, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubaker al-Qirbi said the U.S. Embassy received the threats and that the information was passed to Yemeni authorities.

"When he came, the arrangements for security were at its highest," Mr. al-Qirbi said. "There are always threats which are made, unfortunately, by the e-mail, which have little credibility, but of course the U.S. government cannot ignore these things. As far as Yemen is concerned, we have not received directly any threats directly towards Vice President Cheney. We heard this information through the U.S. Embassy from San'a."

Before Mr. Cheney's visit, at the airport outside San'a, the U.S. Embassy in San'a posted a travel warning to all Americans to expect attacks. The warning said the embassy had received "credible reports that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization have planned attacks against U.S. interests in Yemen."

A man was arrested a day later after throwing concussion grenades at the exterior wall of the U.S. Embassy.

The threat to the vice president underscores the importance of Yemen's role as an ally in the U.S. war against terrorism. Mr. al-Qirbi said Tuesday that in 1996 his government had to expel between 4,000 and 5,000 men who had immigrated to the country in 1989 after fighting with bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.

"Yemen, now after the unification, has become a larger country than it used to be," the foreign minister said. "We have a long coastline and land border and very limited resources as far as the security forces are concerned."

Mr. al-Qirbi said he would be asking for $400 million to $500 million for U.S. help, including access to satellite images and helicopters and coast guard patrol boats.

"There is a lot of smuggling along our coastline," he said. "There are refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Obviously, the security of the country demands we have very efficient security on sea and land."

The U.S. government has helped Yemen put its records on computer. It is also helping Yemen use computers to train security and special forces. Mr. al-Qirbi said teams of approximately 50 CIA agents have been in the country in recent months training Yemen's security services. FBI and CIA officials continue investigating the 2001 attack on the USS Cole.

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