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Last updated on: June 2, 2010 12:14 IST

Burning the midnight oil on access to Headley: US envoy

 India and United States have been "burning the mid-night oil" and working very hard on the David Headley case, America's top envoy to New Delhi has said, hoping that Indian investigators will "soon" get to quiz the Pakistani-American who has confessed to plotting the Mumbai attacks.

However, Timothy Roemer, who was here to attend the first Cabinet-level Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, was tight-lipped -- like other federal officials -- about the questioning of the 49-year-old LeT operative by an Indian investigators' team which is in the United States.

"President (Barack) Obama is extremely interested in resolving this (Headley issue), and our government is very interested in resolving this," the US Ambassador to India told reporters at a reception hosted by the US-India Business Council.

"This is symbolic, I think, in many ways of how close we are working together, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand, trying to make sure that both our countries and people are better protected, sharing intelligence in the middle of the night and hopefully saving lives doing that," he said.

Roemer said he was hopeful that the "interview with Mr Headley will take place soon" and it is "symbolic of this extraordinary cooperation between these two great countries on counter terrorism issues."

"...I would just remind you that as a 9/11 Commissioner, we asked for access right after 9/11 to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (who was arrested in Pakistan), and ... we could not get access to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad - the mastermind of 9/11," he said.

Muhammad is currently in the American custody and faces the death penalty if convicted of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

"But because this (Headley case) is such an important thing to India, to the people of India, to the Government of India because this is so symbolic, because we recognize Headley's role in the Mumbai attacks, we are working burning the mid-night oil and working to make this happen soon," Roemer said.

"I do not want to comment on how long it would last, nor precisely on the timing, only to say that that cooperation has been going on for months for direct access (to Headley), the Indian and the US intelligence have been sharing (information) and briefing each other," said the US Ambassador in response to a question.

Video: Paresh Gandhi in Washington, DC

Image: Timothy Roemer
Video: Paresh Gandhi