update: Tester pushes Middle Eastern leaders on cooperation in fight against terrorism

Senator visits Yemen, Qatar following meetings in Iraq

(SANA’A, Yemen) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week is pressing leaders in the Middle East on the importance of cooperation with the United States in the war against terrorism.

In Yemen, Tester met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss Yemen’s role in the fight against al-Qaida.

“In our fight against terrorists that threaten U.S. security, it’s critical for countries like Yemen to be a partner in the effort,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  “We’ve still got some obstacles to overcome, but we’re making headway and today’s discussions were frank and productive.”

Tester—a third generation family farmer—and Saleh also discussed the importance of a strong agricultural sector to promote economic development as a means to prevent radicalization.  Saleh agreed, telling Tester, “All Yemenis are farmers.  It is our heritage and our blood.”
Tester, traveling with Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., also met with members of Yemen’s opposition political party.  He pointed to the need in developing democracies to show that “folks of all beliefs must be able to express their views.”

During a travel delay in Qatar, Tester had an opportunity to visit Al Udeid Air Base Wednesday.  More than 300,000 American service members transit through Al Udeid each year, and more than one million gallons of jet fuel is pumped at the base each day.  Tester called the American Air Force-led operation at the airbase “extremely impressive.”

In Baghdad earlier this week, Tester met with Montana troops serving in Operation New Dawn.  Tester also met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with two of the country’s vice presidents and several members of Iraq’s Christian community who were targeted in attacks last fall.

Tester said he has seen notable progress in Iraq’s rebuilding efforts since his last visit there in late 2007.

“I’ve been able to see firsthand how much of the country has been rebuilt,” Tester said.  “We’ve seen more agriculture, more city lights, and more traffic in the streets.  We’ve seen the progress Iraqis are making in taking control of their own country.”

U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of Iraq by the end of the year.