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U.S. officials: No ships going to Yemen

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon has no immediate plans to deploy ships to Yemen, site of the fatal USS Cole bombing and suspected haven for al Qaeda members, according to Navy officials.

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There is no compelling reason to return U.S. ships to the port of Aden, according to officials.

The U.S. Central Command, which directs U.S. forces in the region, will make the final decision in consultation with the Navy, officials said.

Seventeen sailors died and 39 injured in October 2000 when terrorists attacked the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, in Aden.

Yemen's government recently asked the U.S. military to come to the port, assess the updated security situation in Aden and determine whether U.S. ships should be deployed to the area.

"There are a number of reasons for thinking hard about going back," a Navy official said. "One is that Yemen is still a dangerous place, and two, the psychological aspect of returning our ships there."

The Yemeni and U.S. governments have increased contacts since the September 11 attacks. Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda, the group suspected of carrying out those attacks and on the USS Cole, have strong ties to Yemen.

Yemeni forces have launched numerous operations against suspected al Qaeda operatives since last fall and the country has lent its support to the U.S.-led antiterrorism effort.

The Pentagon is considering sending 40 to 80 troops to Yemen to train and equip the Yemeni military in counterterrorism in a mission similar to the one in the Philippines, a senior U.S. official told CNN last week.

Earlier this week, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited the airport in Sana'a for two hours of talks with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Although the Navy considers Aden is a useful port, officials said the U.S. military has other options in the region just as suitable. One possibility is to use space across the Gulf of Aden at a French naval base in Djibouti.




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