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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"The most closely watched aspect of this case has been the possible link to Iran"
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US Attorney General Jim Ashcroft
"The investigation is continuing"
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The BBC's Middle East analyst Roger Hardy
"It was one of the most serious attacks on a US target for many years"
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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Iran rejects US bomb allegations
Khobar towers
Nineteen US servicemen were killed in the blast
Iran has angrily rejected US allegations that elements within the Iranian Government were directly involved in the bombing of an American military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

The American Government... does not have the right take any step whatsoever in this matter. Such steps fall within the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia

Saudi defence minister
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asafi said the accusations, made by US Attorney-General John Ashcroft, were false, and reflected an "ongoing hostile policy" towards Iran.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also criticized the US indictments.

Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz said: "The American Government has the right to discuss the Khobar explosions, but it does not have the right take any step whatsoever in this matter. Such steps fall within the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia."

Prince Sultan went on to say that the Saudi authorities "very much want to co-operate with every country that has information on any person whatsoever implicated in these explosions".

'Iranian supervision'

Mr Ashcroft's allegations of official Iranian involvement followed charges being brought in the US against 14 people in connection with the 1996 bombing, in which 19 American servicemen died.

US Attorney General
Attorney-General Ashcroft said there could be further charges
Five hundred people were injured in the attack, in which a truck loaded with explosives was detonated outside a military housing complex, the Khobar Towers, in the city of Dhahran.

The defendants - 13 Saudis and one Lebanese - face offences including attempted murder of federal employees, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

In announcing the indictments, Mr Ashcroft said factions within the Iranian regime had "inspired, supported and supervised" Saudi Islamic militants to carry out the attack.

'Iran training'

None of the 14 people named in the indictment is in US custody, although US officials said some are being held in other, unspecified, countries.

The accused
All offences: Ahmed al-Mughassil, Ali al-Houri, Hani al-Sayegh, Ibrahim al-Yacoub, Abdel Karim al-Nasser, Mustafa al-Qassab, Abdallah al-Jarash, Hussein al-Mughis, and an unidentified Lebanese man
Conspiracy: Sa'ed al-Bahar, Saleh Ramadan, Ali al-Marhoun, Mustafa al-Mu'alem and Fadel al-Alawe
The BBC's correspondent in Tehran says Iran is also likely to see the accusations in connection with the expected renewal of sanctions against it by the US Congress later this year.

The indictment said the defendants were trained in Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon and in Iran.

Nine of the 14 alleged bombers are charged with 46 separate offences, including conspiracy to kill Americans, to use weapons of mass destruction, bombing, and murder.

The US under attack
1993: New York World Trade Centre bomb kills six
1993 Mogadishu: US military helicopter shot down
1995 Saudi Arabia: Car bomb kills five Americans and two Indians at a US-run military training camp
1996 Dhahran: Khobar Towers car bomb kills 19 airmen
1998 East Africa: Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania bombed, killing 224 people and injuring around 5,000
2000 Aden: Suicide bomber attacks USS Cole, killing 17 sailors
The five others are each charged with conspiracy relating to the bombing.

The indictments allege that the bombing was part of attempts to expel Americans from Saudi Arabia.

The indictment came just four days before the fifth anniversary of the bombing on June 25, when a statute of limitations comes into effect for this offence.

They follow recent convictions in New York over the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

An FBI team is still investigating the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October last year.

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See also:

22 Jun 01 | Americas
FBI praised for Saudi indictments
09 May 01 | Middle East
US blocks Iran WTO application
12 Oct 99 | Americas
Bomb suspect sent to Saudi
29 May 01 | Americas
How the US became a target
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
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