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The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington
"The New Yorker claims Mr Freeh became suspicious of President Clinton"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"These suspects allege to be blaming Iran"
 real 28k

Suzanne Maloney, Brookings Institution
"It certainly parallels some of the reports that we have seen over the years"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Saudi bombing charges 'close'
Khobar Towers, Dhahran Saudi Arabia
The Khobar Towers was blown up in 1996
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

Officials in the United States say they are preparing to bring charges against a number of people implicated in a bomb attack against a military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

Nineteen American servicemen were killed in the attack, which led to a long and often frustrating inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The issue is so sensitive that, even now, US officials are saying very little.

FBI Director Louis Freeh
The FBI's Louis Freeh fought the White House
But they have revealed they expect to issue a number of indictments soon.

Reports from Washington suggest those charged will be Saudi citizens.

Some US and Saudi officials have long suspected that Iran was behind the attack.

The head of the FBI, Louis Freeh, is thought to have become convinced of this.

But his pursuit of justice came into collision with the Clinton administration's desire for better relations with Iran.

Having doggedly continued his investigation - despite disputes with the State Department and the White House, and a lack of co-operation from the Saudis - Mr Freeh will now feel vindicated if charges are brought before he leaves office at the end of this month.

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami
The US is wary of Iran despite Mr Khatami
But even if no Iranians are charged, Iran's alleged involvement seems likely to be mentioned in the indictments.

So the issue adds one more complication to the Bush administration's review of US policy towards Iran.

It has welcomed the re-election of the reformist president, Mohammed Khatami - but continues to believe Iran is a sponsor of terrorism.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Americas
Iran denies US bombing link
09 May 01 | Middle East
US blocks Iran WTO application
12 Oct 99 | Americas
Bomb suspect sent to Saudi
06 Oct 99 | Americas
Iran snubs US bomb investigation
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