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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
US and Yemen differ over inquiry
USS Cole after the bombing last October
USS Cole: hunt for the bombers is proving frustrating
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

The United States has said it is working closely with the authorities in Yemen to reach agreement on the return of an FBI team investigating the bombing of a US warship there last year.

According to a report in The New York Times, the FBI investigation has virtually ground to a halt because of a lack of Yemeni co-operation.

The team left Yemen in June citing what it called a credible security threat.

Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden
US suspects Osama Bin Laden's involvement

Despite the efforts of the US State Department to sound upbeat, there is a distinct element of tension in US-Yemeni relations over the handling of the FBI investigation.

Ever since the suicide attack on the USS Cole as it was refuelling in Aden harbour, US officials have suspected the involvement of the wealthy Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden.

Indeed Bin Laden himself has come close to claiming credit for the bombing.

But - according to The New York Times - Yemeni officials are denying the Americans access to prominent Yemenis thought to be linked to the attack.

Anti-American mood

The Yemeni authorities are planning to put on trial six men they arrested soon after the bombing - men the FBI regards as small fry.

The Yemeni Government finds itself caught between a desire for better relations with Washington and awareness of the anti-American mood in the region.

Many Yemenis, like many other Arabs, applaud the attack on the Cole and regard Bin Laden as a hero.

In addition, some of the Yemenis the FBI wants to question are thought to have friends in high places.

The bomb attack on the USS Cole - in which 17 American sailors died - took place in October last year.

See also:

04 Dec 00 | Middle East
Yemen 'charges' USS Cole suspects
31 Oct 00 | Middle East
Warship bomb: US appeal to Yemen
26 Oct 00 | Middle East
Yemen bomb suspects held
12 Oct 00 | Middle East
Blast holes US warship
15 Oct 00 | Middle East
Bodies of US sailors flown home
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