SAN'A, Yemen (AP) – Vice President Dick Cheney courted Yemen, a nation that U.S. officials fear could become another Afghanistan, with promises Thursday of more support in the war on terror.
Cheney visited the capital of Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland for just two hours, under extremely tight security.
The vice president arrived on an Air Force C-17 transport plane, without most of his staff or the bulk of the press corps that has been traveling with him. He met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and other top Yemeni officials at the airport.
Cheney gave up the shiny white-and-blue jumbo jet he has been using on his tour of the Middle East to fly on the specially fitted cargo plane. He spent some of the 2 1/2-hour flight from Egypt in the cockpit.
The plane used evasive maneuvers in landing and taking off.
Saleh and Cheney said afterward that they talked about the Israel-Palestinian crisis, Yemen's role in the war against terrorism, and Iraq.
But Cheney found little support for U.S. plans for a tougher stance on Iraq, U.S. and Yemeni aides said.
Neither man took questions.
"We have increasingly developed in more recent months very close bilateral relations between the United States and Yemen,'' Cheney said before rushing off to his next stop, Oman.
Late Thursday, he attended a private meeting with Oman Sultan Qaboos.
Eight Yemeni opposition parties issued a statement saying Cheney's visit would "lead to more bloodshed than is being spilled every day on Palestinian land and in besieged Iraq.''
"Through this visit, the U.S. administration is offering vague and flexible promises on the Palestinian issue for a free hand to attack brotherly Iraq and to create suitable circumstance to increase U.S. military influence in the region,'' the statement said.
Bush administration officials said the United States stands ready to offer Yemen more military and economic support and that Thursday's meeting was an attempt to determine what Saleh needs most.
An adviser to the Yemeni government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cheney and Saleh discussed a U.S. program for training Yemeni military and police.
The official said teams of military advisers were expected to start arriving in Yemen soon to supplement about two dozen U.S. military advisers already there.
Initially, there will be three teams, with 20 to 30 advisers each, he said. Each team will spend about 30 days in Yemen, under the plan.
U.S. officials declined to specify the exact nature of the aid that was discussed, or how much it would cost.
On Friday, Cheney will fly to the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis in the North Arabian Sea, and may visit U.S. troops stationed at a base in Oman.
The administration is courting Yemen in hopes of preventing the mountainous, partially lawless country from becoming another Afghanistan by providing sanctuary to fleeing al-Qaida terrorists.
Yemen has an unprotected 850-mile border with Saudi Arabia and a 1,500-mile coastline – and little in the way of a coast guard.
The port city of Aden was the site of the October 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.
Saleh said he and Cheney discussed cooperation against terrorism and agreed ``that the fight against terrorism is paramount and should continue.''
But rising Israeli-Palestinian violence was the immediate concern of the Yemeni president, aides said. Speaking in Arabic, Saleh told reporters his country wants "an intensive effort to end violence and press Israel to comply with international resolutions to end its aggression against the Palestinians.''
Cheney only mentioned that he and Saleh "discussed a wide range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the continuing war on terror and the situation with respect to U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iraq.''
Senior U.S. officials said the stop in Yemen was added to Cheney's schedule after Saleh telephoned President Bush to request a visit.
Cheney is the highest level U.S. official to visit since then-Vice President George Bush, the president's father, visited in 1986.story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020314/ap_on_re_mi_ea/cheney_29E-mail this article