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US has no indictment right in Khobar case: Sultan
SANAA , 23rd Jun 2001

  Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, stated yesterday that the US had no right to indict 14 people including 13 Saudis in connection with Alkhobar bombing that killed 19 US airmen. “Every country has the right to question any person on its land, especially in the case of Alkhobar bombing. But the Americans have no right to take any (legal) steps that come under Saudi jurisdiction,” Prince Sultan said.

“The indictments they have made (against the suspects) should be passed to the Kingdom for further investigation as we are the final authority in this case,” Prince Sultan told reporters at the conclusion of a three-day official visit to Yemen. “We will be happy to cooperate with any country that has information on any person implicated in these explosions,” the prince added.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday that the United States had indicted 13 Saudis and a Lebanese in a bombing in the eastern Saudi city of Alkhobar. Prince Sultan’s comments were the first official Saudi reaction to the report of indictments. But Washington disclosed yesterday that it would continue the investigations into the 1996 blast and that new indictments would be made against others.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly stated that the investigation into the incident was still under way and that no one would be accused until it was completed. Riyadh has also criticized US press reports implicating Iran in the bombing. In a previous statement, Prince Sultan said the Kingdom had no information about the 13 suspects indicted by the US. However, he said the Kingdom was detaining a number of suspects who had admitted to their involvement in the bombing.

Also yesterday, Iran rejected as “baseless” US accusations of its involvement in the bombing. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asafi told the official IRNA news agency in Tehran that the charges were a show of submission to the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.

“The US judiciary has leveled charges against Iran which have no legal and judicial basis,” Asafi said. “The charges are only supplemental to the ceaseless efforts of the US to pressure the Islamic republic,” he added.

The US accused parts of the Iranian government of being behind the Khobar bombing. The charges were brought days before the fifth anniversary of the attack in which a powerful truck bomb ripped through a US military housing complex in Alkhobar.

The indictment did not name or charge any member of the Iranian government. Tehran has denied involvement in the Khobar Towers attack, saying such allegations were made by people wanting to stop the development of good relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran state radio earlier said the accusations reflected Washington’s continued hostility toward Tehran.

 “These accusations are part of the ongoing hostile policy pursued by the US administrations,” the radio said in a commentary.

Asafi also slammed plans by a US House of Representatives panel earlier this week to endorse a five-year extension of sanctions against Iran and Libya. The White House favors extending the sanctions by two years. “The sanctions policy is a failed policy and contrary to international norms,” Asafi said. “The move to renew the sanctions is a sign of the lack of logic in America’s foreign relations.”

Asafi said the US sanctions policy was bound to hurt American companies and prevent them from competing with other firms for projects in Iran.

Hezbollah resistance movement also denied any tie to the Khobar Towers bombing. In a statement sent to Reuters in Beirut the group dismissed the indictment, which alleges that a Lebanese member of Hezbollah helped build the bomb that devastated the US military housing complex.

“The baseless charges leveled at Hezbollah through the accusation of one of its members, and the allegations of providing training, are political accusations that have no evidence behind them,” it said. “We have previously denied any link between Hezbollah and Khobar, and the matter does not require denying anew.”

The United States yesterday warned Americans abroad of an increase in the risk of attacks on US citizens, facilities or interests, a State Department official said in Washington. A worldwide caution under preparation will note the indictment of 14 people in the 1996 bombing.

The US fleet in the Gulf has been ordered to put to sea in response to a credible threat of attack against US interests worldwide following the indictment, US sources said yesterday. The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, has ordered its ships to put to sea in response to the threat, the source said.

Source: Arab News©

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