The US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation insisted Wednesday they were not bickering over the probe into the terrorist attack on a naval destroyer in Yemen.
In an unusual move, the agencies issued a joint statement maintaining they continued to "work closely together" in the investigation of the blast in an apparent attempt to dispel a weekend New York Times report that they were not.
"The United States Embassy in Sanaa, the Department of State, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to work closely together in the ongoing investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole on October 12," the statement said.
"We are bound by the same primary goal of seeing that those responsible for this attack are brought to justice," it said.
The Times reported there had been clashes between the FBI and US diplomats in Yemen over how to deal with local authorities who are conducting the probe, especially on whether American investigators should be present during the interrogation of suspects.
State Department officials, according to the Times, are leery of demanding too much access to the investigation for fear of harming relations with Yemen while the FBI is pressing for more.
Washington has repeatedly pressed Sanaa for additional assistance in the probe, though the FBI and the State Department reiterated that thus far the cooperation of the Yemeni government "has been good."
"We are pleased that they have been forthcoming in sharing information and closely coordinating with our investigation," the statement said.
Despite the release of the statement denying friction between the agencies, a senior State Department official said it was not unusual for departments to have varying ways of going about their business.
"In the interagency process, there are differences of opinion," the official told AFP. "That is normal.
"We all have the same goal, but, in this case, like a lot of others, different departments and agencies have different interests they want looked after and different ways of getting to that goal."
The Cole was attacked last month by a bomb-laden boat that exploded as the destroyer was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a 12-by-12-meter (40-by-40-foot) hole in the ship's port side and killing 17 sailors -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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