Page last updated at 19:14 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Yemen cleric Zindani warns against 'foreign occupation'

Abdul-Majid al-Zindani
Abdul-Majid al-Zindani urged Yemen's rulers 'to be careful'

An influential Yemeni cleric has warned the country not to allow "occupation" by foreign powers as it co-operates with the US in counter-terrorism.

Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, named as a terrorist by the US and the UN for suspected links to al-Qaeda, said Yemen rejected "the return of colonialism".

Yemen-based militants said they were behind a recent failed US bomb plot.

The US has vowed to continue to support Yemen in its fight against militants, but says it will not send troops there.

Mr Zindani, head of al-Iman University, a Sunni religious school in the capital Sanaa, was listed as a "specially designated global terrorist" by the US Treasury Department and the UN in 2004, but Yemen has taken no steps to freeze his assets.

The day parliament allows the occupation of Yemen, the people will rise up against it and bring it down.
Abdul-Majid al-Zindani
Yemeni cleric

The US military is helping to train Yemeni counter-terror forces, and assisted them with intelligence and logistics to carry out air strikes last month against suspected al-Qaeda hideouts.

The US was also planning to double economic aid to Yemen.

Speaking to reporters at his home in Sanaa, Mr Zindani said: "We accept any co-operation in the framework of respect and joint interests, and we reject military occupation of our country. And we don't accept the return of colonialism."

He added: "Yemen's rulers and people must be careful before a [foreign] guardianship is imposed on them.

"The day parliament allows the occupation of Yemen, the people will rise up against it and bring it down."

Parliamentary approval

Mr Zindani did not criticise the Yemeni government directly for co-operating with the US, but urged it to get any agreements approved by parliament.

"The constitution says agreements must be put before parliament. I demand the implementation of the constitution," he said.

Earlier US President Barack Obama said he has "no intention" of sending US troops to countries like Yemen or Somalia, adding that "working with international partners" there was "most effective at this point".

The spotlight was turned on Yemen after the Yemen-based group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it had tried to blow up an airliner as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Mr Zindani also said he had no knowledge of al-Qaeda's activities in Yemen, nor did he have influence over American Muslim radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

Yemeni officials claim Mr Awlaki met Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged in connection with the Chrismas Day plot.

It has also emerged that Mr Awlaki gave religious advice by e-mail to a Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people at at base in Texas in November.

"I was never a direct teacher for Anwar al-Awlaki," Mr Zindani said.

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Reuters UK Yemen says security forces kill al Qaeda cell leader - 2 hrs ago
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Philadelphia Inquirer Yemeni cleric warns against a U.S. role - 26 hrs ago
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