WASHINGTON (AP) _ The two men who carried out the suicide bombing of the USS Cole last month have been identified as veterans of the U.S.-backed guerrilla war to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The newspaper quoted Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul-Karim al-Iryani as saying in an interview that one of the men who steered the small boat carrying plastic explosives into the ship was a Yemeni born in the eastern province of Hadramaut.

He would not discuss other details learned in the investigation of the attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors Oct. 12 as the ship refueled in a port in Yemen. But he told the newspaper that authorities have solid leads to the identity of the second man, also thought to have been a native of Yemen.

Al-Iryani said the identity of the first man was established by false identification discovered in one of the rented houses around Aden, where the attack was planned. The name on the ID forms, which included a boating license, was false, but the photo was genuine.

The prime minister also told the Post that Yemeni investigators have learned a lot from relatives of the man.

``The picture inside the country should be very clear very soon. The question is outside. Who was involved outside the country?'' he said.

Investigators have focused on Muslim extremists angered by the U.S. military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia.

U.S. investigators have said the attack bears the earmarks of followers of Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire and Afghanistan veteran who officials say ordered the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The prime minister said Yemeni investigators have not linked the Aden bombing to bin Laden, who has Yemeni citizenship by his father's birth in the Hadramaut region. But al-Iryani said a wider conspiracy seems obvious to Yemeni officials, who believe the Cole attack displayed technological savvy unknown in their country.