- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

From combined dispatches

MANAMA, Bahrain Yemen said yesterday it had captured suspects in last month's bombing of the USS Cole, while Defense Secretary William S. Cohen visited the region to shore up military ties in the Persian Gulf region and to send the message: "We're not leaving."
In Aden, authorities said they expect to close soon the investigation of the Cole bombing, which killed 17 American sailors, Yemen's interior minister said in remarks published yesterday.
"Security bodies have recently arrested a number of main elements accused in the incident," Interior Minister Hussein Mohammed Arab told September 26, the state-run weekly. He did not give further details about the suspects.
"The investigation in the case will finish shortly and the case will be referred to the prosecutor's office and the judiciary during the coming few weeks," Mr. Arab said.
"Cooperation and coordination with the Americans is continuing in a good fashion and our American friends understand the situation well and are satisfied about the cooperation."
U.S. officials have complained about U.S. investigators not getting full access to witnesses and suspects. Yemen has vowed full cooperation.
En route to Bahrain, home port for the Navy's 5th Fleet, Mr. Cohen told reporters he has "taken additional measures as far as security is concerned" and ordered the service chiefs to review "what other measures should be taken" to protect U.S. forces. He would not provide specifics.
Against the backdrop of Middle East violence and erosion of support for economic sanctions on Iraq, Mr. Cohen said he made his ninth and probably last trip to the Middle East to thank U.S. troops and tell U.S. military partners he "appreciated their strong support."
At a news conference yesterday at the Manama airport, Mr. Cohen urged Israelis and Palestinians to "lower and eliminate the violence."
The former senator said the United States seeks better relations with Iran, which he accused of "undermining the Middle East peace process," supporting terrorism and acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Cohen said Iraq under President Saddam Hussein continues to "frustrate the will of the U.N… . seeking to have sanctions lifted even though he is not complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions."
Under the tightest security, Mr. Cohen's itinerary included Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. U.S. forces are on the highest alert level, "threatcon delta," in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Six Kuwaitis have been arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. and Western forces.
Mr. Cohen would not discuss recent comments of sailors on the Cole that sentries were carrying unloaded weapons and ordered not to shoot unless fired upon, but he said the plan to attack the destroyer was "long in the making" as an effort to drive the United States from the region.
"We're not leaving," he said.
While the crippled Cole began its journey to the United States by a longer route that avoids the Suez Canal, Mr. Cohen said the Navy would not give in to threats by staying out of the waterway.
"We will plan to move ships [through the canal] when they're scheduled to move through and they haven't been scheduled recently," he commented. "There's been no change in our plan in operations in the Suez."
Mr. Cohen said he wanted to stress to leaders in the region that while he understands the sympathetic feelings for the Iraqi population, economic sanctions are still needed because the country's leader cannot be provided with "unrestricted revenue to go for building [Saddam's] war machine."
"Saddam Hussein himself is responsible for the infliction of that suffering."

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