News


DATE=5/22/98
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
NUMBER=2-232645
TITLE=SAUDI/BOMBING (L)
BYLINE=DOUGLAS ROBERTS
DATELINE=CAIRO
CONTENT=
VOICED AT: 

INTRO: A TOP SAUDI ARABIAN OFFICIAL SAYS HIS GOVERNMENT HAS RULED
OUT FOREIGN INVOLVEMENT IN A 1996 TERRORIST ATTACK IN THE KINGDOM
THAT LEFT 19 UNITED STATES SERVICEMEN DEAD.  MIDDLE EAST 
CORRESPONDENT DOUGLAS ROBERTS IN CAIRO HAS DETAILS.

TEXT:   THE COMMENT CAME FROM SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTER PRINCE 
NAYEF BIN ABDELAZIZ.

IN AN INTERVIEW FRIDAY WITH THE KUWAITI NEWSPAPER, "AL-RAI 
AL-AAM," THE PRINCE WAS QUOTED AS SAYING THERE WAS  NO  FOREIGN 
INVOLVEMENT IN THE JUNE 1996 TRUCK BOMBING OF THE KHOBAR TOWERS 
HOUSING COMPLEX NEAR THE EASTERN CITY OF DHARAN.

//OPT// IN ADDITION TO THE 19 U-S SERVICEMEN KILLED IN THE 
ATTACK, DOZENS MORE WERE WOUNDED.  AND THE INCIDENT PROMPTED THE 
TRANSFER OF AMERICAN MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM THE DHARAN AREA TO A
REMOTE DESERT AIR BASE NEAR THE SAUDI CAPITAL, RIYADH. //END 
OPT//

IN FRIDAY'S INTERVIEW, THE INTERIOR MINISTER WAS QUOTED AS SAYING
THE BOMBING WAS THE WORK OF "SAUDI HANDS."  BUT HE GAVE  NO  
FURTHER DETAILS,  AND IT WAS  NOT  IMMEDIATELY CLEAR WHETHER HIS 
REMARKS SIGNALED THE COMPLETION OF THE SAUDI INVESTIGATION INTO 
THE ATTACK.

A U-S PROBE -- BY THE F-B-I -- CONTINUES.  BUT AMERICAN OFFICIALS
ACKNOWLEDGE THEY HAVE MADE LITTLE HEADWAY, AND THEY HAVE 
COMPLAINED ABOUT A LACK OF COOPERATION FROM THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT.

SAUDI AUTHORITIES HAVE DETAINED A NUMBER OF SUSPECTS IN 
CONNECTION WITH THE ATTACK.  BUT THEY HAVE REFUSED TO ALLOW U-S 
INVESTIGATORS TO INTERVIEW THE DETAINEES, DESPITE REPEATED TRIPS 
TO THE KINGDOM BY F-B-I DIRECTOR LOUIS FREEH.

//OPT// VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE REPORTEDLY DISCUSSED THE 
INVESTIGATION WITH CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH DURING A VISIT TO SAUDI 
ARABIA EARLIER THIS MONTH.  BUT AMERICAN OFFICIALS GAVE  NO  
INDICATION OF ANY PROGRESS FOLLOWING THOSE TALKS. //END OPT//

IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF THE BOMBING, SAUDI OFFICIALS WERE 
QUOTED AS SAYING THERE WERE INDICATIONS OF IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT.  
AND THE UNITED STATES PUBLICLY THREATENED RETALIATION, IF 
TEHRAN'S ROLE WERE PROVEN.

SUSPICIONS OF IRANIAN SUPPORT FOR THE ATTACK WERE BOLSTERED BY 
THE ARREST IN CANADA LAST YEAR OF A SAUDI MAN -- HANI AL-SAYEGH 
-- ACCUSED OF INVOLVEMENT IN THE ATTACK.

CANADIAN COURT DOCUMENTS LINK THE SUSPECT TO THE IRANIAN-BACKED 
"HEZBOLLAH" ORGANIZATION.

MR. SAYEGH DENIED INVOLVEMENT.

HE WAS LATER EXTRADITED TO THE UNITED STATES, AMID REPORTS HE HAD
AGREED TO TELL ALL HE KNEW ABOUT THE ATTACK IN EXCHANGE FOR 
ASYLUM.

BUT IN SEPTEMBER, THE U-S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ABRUPTLY DROPPED 
CHARGES AGAINST MR. SAYEGH AND ANNOUNCED THAT HE WOULD BE 
DEPORTED BECAUSE SAUDI AUTHORITIES HAD FAILED TO TURN OVER 
EVIDENCE THAT COULD BE USED IN AN AMERICAN COURT.

THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT HAS ASKED WASHINGTON TO HAND OVER MR. 
SAYEGH.  U-S OFFICIALS SAY THEY HAVE  NOT  YET DECIDED WHERE HE 
WILL BE SENT.

THE INVESTIGATIONS HAVE CONTINUED AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF 
GRADUALLY IMPROVING TIES BETWEEN THE SAUDI AND IRANIAN 
GOVERNMENTS.  THE LONG-RUNNING HOSTILITY SPARKED BY THE 1979 
ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN TEHRAN HAS EASED OVER THE PAST YEAR SINCE 
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF POLITICAL MODERATE, MOHAMMED 
KHATTAMI. (SIGNED) 

NEB/DBR/PCF

22-May-98 11:38 AM EDT (1538 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America
.