State Department Noon Briefing, October 18, 2000

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2000 1:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) Q: Ambassador Bodine was telling reporters last night that there has been some significant developments in the Cole investigation. Do you know what they are? Can you shed light on that? MR. REEKER: I don't think I can add much. I mean, I have seen transcripts. I have seen Ambassador Bodine, our Ambassador in Yemen, on some of the television shows discussing this. As my colleague, Admiral Quigley at the Pentagon said yesterday, we're not going to comment specifically on aspects of the criminal investigation while it is under way, and I'm not going to speculate certainly on the big question of who may have been responsible for the explosion. That is obviously what the investigation wants to pinpoint. I can say -- and I think this reflects, or is reflected very much by what Ambassador Bodine has said -- that the investigation into the explosion of the USS Cole is proceeding very well, with continued good full cooperation by the Government of Yemen. The interagency team that was dispatched to Yemen last Thursday when this event took place remains on the ground -- or, in fact, on ships in some cases -- in Aden. It includes investigators and medical technicians, communications experts, and certainly a robust force protection element. I think we may have talked a little bit at the end of the week about the Foreign Emergency Support Team, or FEST, which is the State-led interagency group of experts that can be deployed rapidly -- in this case was deployed rapidly to Yemen -- to assist US and host nation authorities in a wide range of specialized skills not normally available on the scene, and particularly in the aftermath of a possible terrorist incident. So we have been working very closely with the Yemenis, have appreciated that coordination and the support that they have been providing us. Obviously, as other departments have noted, senior officials are being kept apprised of this, and so I'm just not in a position to go into any more details of the investigation. Q: Well, can you at least say whether you got some solid leads yet, or are you still at square one? MR. REEKER: Again, I think I have to say that the investigation has moved forward very quickly. This is less than a week since this tragic incident occurred. But I'm just not going to be able to get into day-by-day readouts of this. It wouldn't be appropriate or prudent. It is an ongoing criminal investigation. The FBI obviously will have the lead of that criminal investigation, and we will certainly be paying close attention and watching for what information does emerge when it is determined that that information is appropriate to provide publicly. Q: Did the Secretary discuss the investigation? Apparently there has been some -- I know you don't want to go into the investigation, but there has been some claims that some of the people that could be responsible are of Saudi descent. And has the Secretary talked about the investigation during her meetings in Saudi Arabia? MR. REEKER: I'm just -- I am not aware. She did, as we discussed, have meetings in Saudi Arabia. I just don't have anything beyond some of the press reports I have seen suggesting these things. I have no details on that. In terms of the Secretary's meetings in Saudi Arabia, she arrived there yesterday and met with King Fahd, coming directly from Sharm el-Sheikh. Later then in the evening, she had meetings with the Saudi Crown Prince and the Foreign Minister. And then this morning, she met with Syrian President Bashar Asad for about two hours and 15 minutes, I am told, before she and her party departed to return to Washington. (The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)