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Saudi Bombing Inquiry Continues

March 31, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Saudi Arabia is still investigating details of the unsolved June 1996 bombing that killed 19 American airmen, the State Department said Tuesday.

``We are continuing to have exchanges with the Saudi government and have had repeated and very high-level assurances of cooperation from them,″ spokesman James P. Rubin said.

Reports from Riyadh quoted the kingdom’s interior minister Monday as saying the Saudis had completed their investigation of the bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in eastern Saudi Arabia.

U.S. officials have repeatedly complained that the Saudis have refused to share information and were dragging their feet in the investigation.

``All the facts of this crime are with us and our intelligence exerted huge efforts to discover everything about the incident and we will leave the announcement for its time,″ Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz told reporters in Mecca Monday.

But Rubin said Tuesday ``it was not all that clear″ that the minister meant the Saudis had closed the investigation.

``On the contrary,″ Rubin said of the Saudi minister, ``he appeared to be saying that the big picture _ there’s nothing new and nothing new to find, but they’re working on the details.

``Well, most investigations focus on the details, and from that, one can build out into understanding what might have happened.″

Rubin added: ``Let me say this. From the perspective of the United States, the Al Khobar bombing investigation remains wide open. We are continuing to have exchanges with the Saudi government and have had repeated and very high-level assurances of cooperation from them.″

The bombing near Dhahran was touched off by terrorists who had driven a truck filled with explosives to the perimeter of the housing complex. Scores of airmen were wounded and the blast left an 80-foot crater.

The airmen were taking part in U.S. patrols over southern Iraq.

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