WASHINGTON (AP) â€” President Clinton appealed for greater cooperation from Yemen in the investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole, saying the United States needs direct access to witnesses, suspects and evidence.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday that Yemen ``had to cooperate more'' as the United States searches for links to Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, who has emerged as the prime focus of the investigation, though American officials have said they have no hard evidence he directed it.
``We think it's very important for them to be as cooperative as possible in trying to resolve this great tragedy,'' Albright said on ABC's ``Good Morning America.'' ``And I think that we have to figure out whether this leads to Osama bin Laden or not. I am not prepared to make that point. But clearly, terrorism that is directed by him, is a threat to the United States and to all our peoples.''
The Oct. 12 attack on the Cole killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39 others in the port of Aden. Officials believe two suicide bombers maneuvered a small boat next to the destroyer and detonated explosives.
FBI officials have privately complained that they have not been able to participate in Yemeni police interviews with witnesses or suspects so far. FBI Director Louis Freeh visited Yemen personally to push for that access.
Clinton spoke by telephone Saturday for 25 minutes with Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, about the investigation.
White House press secretary Jake Siewert said Saleh pledged ``full cooperation in the next phase of the investigation. And we made clear that as part of that investigation we're going to need to see some access to witnesses and access to primary materials there.'' He also mentioned the need for access to suspects.
Siewert said that ``we've received excellent cooperation from them in the first phase. And we expect that that will continue.''
Bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi Arabian family, is frequently mentioned as a possible suspect. He is on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives; he is wanted in connection with the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans.
On the Net:
The USS Cole at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/news/newsâ€”stories/cole.html
Pentagon casualty list at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2000/b10202000â€”bt648-00.html