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Yemen parliament to question deputy PM on WikiLeaks

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen’s parliament will question the deputy prime minister over leaked diplomatic cables that indicated Yemen covered up U.S. strikes on al-Qaeda in the Gulf Arab state, parliament members said on Monday.

Rashad al-Alimi, deputy prime minister for security affairs, speaks during a news conference in Sanaa May 8, 2010. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/Files

Rashad al-Alimi, Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defence Affairs, has been asked to attend parliament on Wednesday to discuss the content of the secret U.S. documents, several MPs confirmed.

According to cables released by website WikiLeaks, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in January told General David Petraeus, then American commander in the Middle East: “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

The statement allegedly prompted Yemen’s deputy prime minister to joke that he had just “lied” by telling parliament that Yemeni forces had carried out the strikes.

A government official told Reuters Alimi would go to parliament to answer parliamentarians’ questions, but said the information in the leaked documents were inaccurate.

“Of course this (information in the cables) is not true. Everyone in the world is complaining about the inaccuracies of these documents,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Impoverished Yemen, neighbour to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been under international pressure to quash a resurgent regional wing of al Qaeda based in the country, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Sanaa had previously denied direct U.S. involvement in airstrikes on militants, although American security officials in August said Washington was looking to increase air strikes against AQAP.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is at the forefront of Western security concerns. Most recently, AQAP claimed a foiled October plot to send parcel bombs to the United States.

Experts say the group is exploiting instability in Yemen, which is trying to suppress separatists in the south and struggling to cement a shaky truce with Shi’ite insurgents in the north, to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Matthew Jones