WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) — With al-Qaida in Yemen handicapped by a recent assassination, the U.S. State Department maintained that political transition was still a top priority there.
U.S.-born cleric Anwar al- Awlaki was killed in an airstrike last week between two provinces in Yemen known to be sympathetic to al-Qaida.
Awlaki was the key spokesman and ideologue for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni franchise of al-Qaida.
But apart from counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, the State Department said, the main focus there was convincing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a transition deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters during her regular press briefing that the best way forward for Yemen was through the GCC deal.
“We had a spate of violence a couple of weeks ago that was very concerning to everybody, representing the frustrations of the people that the country was not moving forward,” she said. “So if (Saleh) truly believes in a strong, stable, democratic Yemen, as he says he does, he should sign the paper and let things move on.”
Saleh has repeatedly expressed his support for the GCC deal but hasn’t yet signed the agreement. The deal hit a recent snag when his opponents balked over an immunity deal included in the initiative.