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Yemeni Prime Minister Pledges Increased Cooperation in USS Cole Investigation

Aired November 1, 2000 - 2:12 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the suspected terrorist attack on the USS Cole and the investigation. As our senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers first reported last Friday, FBI agents investigating that blast in Yemen are running into roadblocks. They have not been allowed to interview any suspects or eyewitnesses and have only see edited transcripts of Yemeni police interviews.

Today Walt Rodgers reports on how that standoff may be resolved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): With the navy destroyer Cole aboard a floating dry-dock for its return to the United States, Yemeni officials say they are close to a compromise that will allow FBI agents to sit in on Yemeni police interrogations of suspects in the attack.

Yemeni law forbids the FBI or any non-Yemeni police from questioning Yemeni citizens. But Yemen's prime minister suggested, in an interview with CNN, the law can be finessed for the FBI investigators.

ABDUL KARIM AL-ARIANI, YEMENI PRIME MINISTER: OK, we don't interrogate but we witness the interrogation and if we have questions, we will write them and the Yemeni interrogators will take care of the question.

RODGERS: The Yemeni prime minister denied a published report alleging there were video cameras trained on the Aden harbor when the Cole was attacked. He said cameras belonging to a shipping terminal were photographing incoming and outgoing shipping, but were not pointed at the destroyer until after it was attacked.

While the attack on the Cole remains unsolved, officials here now acknowledge Yemeni citizens helped the suicide bombers.

AL-ARIANI: They are suspects. They are not yet accused, but they are suspects. That they helped them prepare the boat for the attack; there is no question about that -- helped them falsify their identity cards. There is no question, now, about that.

RODGERS: There are pockets of Islamic militants here, but officials insist there is no widespread anti-Americanism. One official said the C-4 explosive used in the attack had to be imported and he pointed a finger elsewhere.

AL-ARIANI: I will only guess that such an act could only be organized by an Afghan connection -- guessing. But the question that's being raised: Is it Bin Laden, is it not? I could not say yes or no.

RODGERS (on camera): The missing piece of the puzzle, according to Yemeni officials, is determining the identity and the nationality of the two men who piloted the suicide boat. Yemeni police are operating under the assumption that the two men who attacked the Cole also built the bomb and planned the attack itself.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, Sanaa, Yemen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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