Saleh: Yemen ‘Will Never Allow’ US Officials to Question Nationals on Cole Attack
Yemen "will never allow" US officials to question any of its nationals over a blast that killed 17 US seamen on a warship anchored in the port of Aden in October 2000, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Wednesday.
In a statement carried by the Qatar-based satellite television channel Al Jazeera, Saleh said of the Americans: "Of course they are exerting pressure, but we will never allow them to question any leader, commander or citizen" in Yemen.
The president added that "No Yemeni, be he a politician, a member of an Islamic party or anyone else, has the slightest link with the attack on the USS Cole," AFP quoted him as saying.
Seventeen US sailors were killed when suicide bombers attacked the warship during a refueling stop in Aden on October 12 last year. A further 38 people were injured.
Saleh added: "I believe that the task of the American investigators is over and the case is on its way to court." Four FBI investigators flew to Sanaa on Friday, accompanied by a Yemeni legal and security team to complete what remains of the investigation and evaluate the previous findings, said Reuters.
Saleh described the FBI team's mission as "purely technical," but he did not elaborate.
Asked if a date had been fixed for the trial, he said: "That is entirely up to court procedures and nothing else."
The United States suspects that Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden, who is believed to be living in Afghanistan, was behind the attack on the warship USS Cole.
It also suspects that local Yemeni Islamic activists might have been involved, but the authorities in Yemen have steadfastly refused to allow FBI investigators to question any nationals.
Interior Minister Rshad Al Alimi said in July his country had completed its investigation into the attack, but has delayed bringing the case to trial at the request of the United States.
He did not say why Washington wanted the delay. But the outgoing US ambassador to Yemen said last month that more time was needed to complete the probe.
The US withdrew Navy and FBI investigators in June due to what US officials described as a credible security threat – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)