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Yemen's Ambassador Blames "Al Qaeda Central"

CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, based at the United Nations, interviewed Yemen U.N. Ambassador Abdullah M. Alsaidi about Yemen's fight against al Qaeda and its relationship with the United States.

Yemen U.N. Ambassador Abdullah M. Alsaidi said that the attempted bombing of a U.S. commercial airline by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly trained in Yemen, was not only the work of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but the work of "Al Qaeda Central."

"Al Qaeda is vicious, violent and bad, but they are thinking," Alsaidi said. "I doubt they would give him weapons—the explosives—and tell him to travel from one country to another without fear that he would be exposed."

In his radio address on Jan. 2, President Obama maintained that Abdulmutallab was trained, equipped and directed by operatives in Yemen.

"We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al Qaeda, and that this group — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America," the president said.

Alsaidi, who joined Yemen's foreign service in 1984 and is former vice-minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Yemen, said that his country would have detained the alleged attempted Christmas Day bomber if they had the intelligence from the United States. He said that his government welcomes U.S. cooperation - but not boots on the ground.

"Yemen needs U.S. help in terms of weapons, intelligence information and training," Alsaidi said.

The Yemeni government is under pressure to combat radical extremists in the country, ordering two missile strikes in December on what it said were al-Qaeda targets. In fact, recent combined air and ground assaults against al Qaeda in Yemen last month were American-led , a U.S. special operations expert who trains Yemeni forces told CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

Tuesday, Yemen's new offensive against al Qaeda has led to the reopening of the U.S. embassy here, which had been closed for two days because of the threat of an al Qaeda attack, reports CBS' Toula Vlahou. American diplomats credited, "successful counter-terrorism operations" by Yemeni forces.

The United States provided Yemen $67 million in training and support under the Pentagon's counterterrorism program last year, and has been training Yemeni counterterrorist forces since 1990. Yemen has been home to Islamic radicals who have been pushed out of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq by U.S. pressure and combat operations, and reunited as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"That is a huge concern based on the fact that groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula aren't just operating on a regional level, they have a translational nexus," Sajjan Gohel, director for international security at the London-based Asia Pacific Foundation told CBS News.

Special Report: The Christmas Day Terror Attack

Steve Emerson, founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, says the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area is still the "number one" hotspot for terrorist activity, but that Yemen and Somalia are "fast coming up the ladder."

"Yemen possibly could surpass Pakistan in the next year, given the terrorist trajectory for providing a haven for al Qaeda," Emerson said.

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