*** What makes Yemen qualified to hold ANY legally tenable prosecution let alone that of Awlaki? You call for Jihad against the U.S., you dispatch bombers and killers and then you wonder why they want you dead? How thin is the air down there anyway? Sheesh! MS ***
Yemen will not hand over to Washington a militant Muslim cleric wanted dead or alive by U.S. authorities, but instead put him on trial if he is arrested, the Yemeni foreign minister was quoted on Monday as saying.
U.S. officials said in April President Barack Obama's administration had authorized operations to capture or kill U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki -- a leading figure linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, which claimed responsibility for a failed bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December.
"The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law," the state news agency Saba quoted Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi as saying, referring to Awlaki, who is of Yemeni origin.
"Because of his recent terrorist activity, Awlaki is now wanted by the Yemeni government. Hence, he must be tried ... in his homeland but never by other governments," Qirbi was quoted as telling Kuwait's al-Dar newspaper.
Awlaki has said he had contacts with a Nigerian suspect in the attempted bombing of the transatlantic passenger plane and with a U.S. army psychiatrist accused of shooting dead 13 people at a military base in Texas in November.
In a resurgence of violence in northern Yemen, clashes between government forces and Shi'ite rebels forced the closure of a main road from the capital Sanaa to the northern city of Saada on Monday, a local official told Reuters.
In the south, where the government faces growing separatist unrest, one of two security men injured by a home-made bomb in a park died of his wounds, a defense ministry website said on Monday. No one was reported hurt by a second bomb that went off near a bank in the southern port of Aden on Sunday.
Armed separatists abducted three government soldiers to press for the release of fellow activists arrested in recent weeks, an official told Reuters.
Born in New Mexico, Awlaki led prayers at U.S. mosques. He returned to Yemen in 2004 where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks.
Awlaki was released in December 2007 after he was said to have repented.
Western countries fear that al Qaeda's resurgent regional wing is exploiting instability in Yemen, an impoverished country bordering oil giant Saudi Arabia, to launch attacks in the region and beyond.
North and south Yemen united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners exploit the south's resources and discriminate against southern citizens. Officials deny the allegations.