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FBI, State Deny Friction on Cole

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and the State Department are denying a published report of friction over how far to push the Yemeni government for increased access to suspects in the USS Cole bombing investigation.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the department and the FBI said they are working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen, to find out who was behind the Oct. 12 attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

``We are bound by the same primary goal of seeing that those responsible for this attack are brought to justice,'' the statement said. ``At the same time, we continue to work closely with the government of Yemen, whose cooperation has been good. We are pleased that they have been forthcoming in sharing information and closely coordinating with our investigation.''

The New York Times, in a report Sunday from Yemen, said a bitter dispute has erupted within the Clinton administration over whether to accept Yemeni limits on the American investigation or press for a wider inquiry that FBI officials believe could potentially lead to powerful people linked to the Yemeni government itself.

The Times report said the dispute has become so heated that it has featured sometimes personal exchanges between leading American officials on opposing sides. Two of the principal figures in the dispute, with sharply conflicting views, the Times said, have been FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and Barbara K. Bodine, the American ambassador to Yemen.

On Sunday, Bodine issued her own denial.

``The (reports) do not reflect the relationship, at all levels, between the FBI, the State Department, and the embassy, nor the cooperation between the U.S. and Yemeni government on the USS Cole investigation,'' she said in a statement read to The Associated Press by an embassy spokesman.
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