Dubai: A general who has sided with anti-regime protests said in an interview published on Saturday that Yemen will be safer without embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in its fight against al Qaeda.
General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar accused the Yemeni President, who is being treated in the Saudi capital for bomb blast wounds, of nurturing the jihadist network in a ploy to "blackmail" foreign countries.
"I would like to stress that Yemen will be more secure and stable after the departure of Saleh, and will contribute to the security and stability of the whole region," the dissident general told Al-Hayat newspaper.
"He claims to be the security valve for Yemen and neighbouring countries, but this is just a lie," Ahmar said of the veteran leader who has faced months of deadly protests demanding his ouster.
Saleh has long been considered a key ally in Washington`s war on al Qaeda, as many of its militants have regrouped in lawless regions of the impoverished country under the banner of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
"Everybody will realise after the departure of Saleh that the myth of al Qaeda in Yemen is not as big," Ahmar said, adding it would disappear "when Yemen becomes a modern civil state."
Ahmar, whose forces have been guarding anti-regime protesters, camped out in a Sanaa square since February, accused Saleh and members of his family of nourishing "terrorist groups".
"Everyone knows that some of these terrorist groups are present among his private guards," he said.
"Also, these terrorist groups that he keeps warning of, at home and abroad, are supervised by two of his nephews: the head of his private guard, Tariq Mohammed Saleh, and the head of state security, Ammar Mohammed Saleh."
The general also accused Saleh of deliberately handing over control over southern areas of Yemen to al Qaeda.
"Troops have withdrawn upon orders coming from top commanders," he said referring to the takeover by suspected al Qaeda gunmen over the southern city of Zinjibar last month and their extended control over parts of Abyan province.
"Just after Saleh spoke of Al-Qaeda seizing control of provinces, the regime handed over Abyan to terrorist gunmen," he said.
"I fear that the regime might hand over control over other provinces to terrorist groups."
Saleh was flown last week to Riyadh for treatment at a military hospital after being wounded in an explosion at his Sanaa presidential compound.
He has repeatedly refused to sign a proposed power transfer accord despite mounting international pressure to step down following a crackdown that has killed more than 200 demonstrators.