WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama praised Yemen`s "determination" to fight terror during a phone call with his counterpart Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday, the White House said.
But despite the Yemeni government`s efforts to crack down on extremism, the two leaders noted that Al`Qaeda remained a "continuing threat" in the country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
"President Obama applauded Yemen`s determination to address the terrorist threat the Yemeni people face and recognized the sacrifices of Yemeni forces involved in this effort," according to a White House readout of the call.
"They also discussed the continuing threat of Al`Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and international assistance to Yemen to support its counterterrorism efforts."
Obama and Saleh spoke just a day after some 20 suspected Al`Qaeda gunmen launched simultaneous attacks on the intelligence and security service headquarters in the south Yemen town of Zinjibar, killing three policemen and wounding 11. Two gunmen were also killed and one wounded in the clashes.
Extremists are known to be regrouping in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al`Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and the impoverished nation has witnessed repeated attacks claimed by the jihadists on foreign missions, tourist sites and oil facilities.
In May, AQAP claimed responsibility for an attack that prompted the British embassy in Sanaa to close for nearly two weeks.
The government has intensified its operations against the group since the attempted bombing of a US`bound airliner on December 25 by a Nigerian believed to have been trained and supplied by the Yemen`based group.
In addition to Al`Qaeda`s resurgence, Yemen is in the grip of an economic crisis, a secessionist movement in the south and the aftermath of a long`running Zaidi Shiite rebellion in the north.
In his talks with Saleh, Obama backed a "comprehensive and inclusive" Yemeni national dialogue on economic, political and human rights concerns, the White House said.
It added the two discussed US and international support for policies to tackle political and economic challenges in Yemen, including through Friends of Yemen, a forum of aid donors to the country.
BDST: 9:43 HRS, 16 July 2010