Yemen prez ready for talks with al-Qaeda

Yemen’s president said he would talk to his country’s branch of the al-Qaeda militant network if it were to give up its weapons, abandon its extremist ideas and stop sheltering foreign fighters.

The televised statement on Tuesday by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi appeared aimed at showing his readiness to use any means to reduce the political violence in his country, home to the most world’s most active branch of the terror network. Al-Qaeda however has shown little indication that it would want to pursue a dialogue, especially under Hadi’s conditions.

The militants had taken advantage of Yemen’s popular uprising last year to seize much of the country’s south. This summer, backed by US advisers and drones, Hadi’s military launched an offensive to reclaim this territory, going after al-Qaeda’s strongholds and hideouts. The groups’ No 2 was killed earlier this month in an airstrike. The militants in turn have struck back, targeted security officials for assassinations and staging deadly bombings.

Hadi’s remarks were in line with the image he tries to project, of a leader serious about bringing stability to his country either by force or by negotiation.

He said he was pressured by unidentified local “mediators” to accept the idea of dialogue with the militants. The group has often found shelter among tribal leaders. “I say, despite the heavy blood that was shed and the homes which were destroyed, and people who lost their homes, a dialogue can be started on condition that the al-Qaeda agrees publicly to hand over its weapons, declares its repentance from its extremist ideas that have nothing to do with Islam and gives up sheltering armed groups from outside Yemen,” he said.

“Then this would be opening the door for dialogue.”

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