WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose home has been surrounded by Houthi rebels after days of fighting, remains the legitimate leader of Yemen, and the United States is in contact with him, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said U.S. counter-terrorism cooperation with Yemen was continuing for the time being despite the unrest in the Gulf state, which some of its neighbors described as a coup.
The Houthis and some of Hadi’s allies denied he had been overthrown as president of Yemen, where the United States carries out drone strikes against one of the most powerful branches of al Qaeda.
“The legitimate Yemeni government is led by President Hadi. We remain in touch with him. He is in his home,” Psaki said at a regular briefing. Asked about U.S. counter-terrorism work with Yemen’s government, Psaki replied: “at this point in time, it’s ongoing.”
Psaki would not say whether the United States might shrink its diplomatic presence in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, something it often does in cases of civil unrest abroad, saying only: “there has not been a change, at this point, in our security posture on the ground.”
A U.S. security official said the Houthis have not declared that they have ousted the government or taken it over themselves, although Washington believes Hadi’s government could be overthrown.
“This is so fluid. We see hour by hour what’s happening.” said another U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s important for us to continue to work with him (Hadi) and publicly talk about that because it’s not beneficial to suggest otherwise.”
Reporting by David Storey and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Susan Heavey and Paul Simao