SLUG: 2-267924 Clinton-Ymen-ship (l) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:




TITLE=Clinton-Yemen Ship (L)

BYLINE=David Gollust

DATELINE=White House



INTRO: President Clinton has spoken by telephone with Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday's apparent terrorist attack on the Navy destroyer U-S-S Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. The Pentagon now says 17 navy personnel are presumed to have been killed in blast. V-O-A's David Gollust reports from the White House.

TEXT: A White House spokesman said President Saleh promised his government's full cooperation in the U-S investigation of the attack on the navy ship, and told Mr. Clinton he is remaining in Aden to personally monitor the situation.

The President, who met Mr. Saleh at the White House earlier this year, voiced appreciation for what was described as Yemen's "excellent" support for U-S personnel in the incident thus far -- a view also expressed at the Pentagon by spokesman Kenneth Bacon:

///Bacon actuality///

We are getting very significant cooperation right now from the government of Yemen in several respects. First, they have helped us with the medical care, and second they are providing a lot of security around the port in the city of Aden. And third, they have vowed to be cooperative in the investigation.

///end act///

President Clinton has dispatched military and civilian investigators to Yemen to investigate the attack, the most serious act of terror directed at U-S forces since the 1996 truck bombing of an Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia in which 19 Americans were killed.

Mr. Clinton also discussed the incident Friday with senior Navy personnel including Commander Kirk Lippold -- chief officer of the U-S-S Cole -- who remains aboard the vessel in the Aden harbor, leading recovery efforts.

Mr. Clinton expressed condolences to the commander over the deaths and injuries among the crew, and reiterated the U-S government's determination to identify and hold accountable those behind the bombing.

The blast from explosives believed carried by a small boat which came alongside the U-S ship tore a hole some ten meters square along its waterline.

But Pentagon officials said Friday the five-year-old destroyer -- which had made a refueling stop in Aden- -- was stable and appears structurally sound and eventually will be returned to the United States for repairs.

Defense officials conceded that crew members initially listed missing in the blast are presumed to have been killed and put the death toll at 17. President Clinton is expected to join in a memorial event for those who died next week. (Signed)