American and British officials have moved quickly to downplay the French interior minister's comment that one of two mail bombs sent from Yemen last week was disarmed just 17 minutes before it was set to go off.
The issue of timing is central to the investigation because it could indicate whether terrorists hoped to blow up the planes over U.S. airspace or whether they simply wanted to take down the planes regardless of their location.U.S. State Department counterterror coordinator Daniel Benjamin questioned the French interior minister's comments Thursday.
He told reporters in Rotterdam: "This is not our understanding of the situation. Our understanding is the investigators are still looking at the fusing and the timing of a possible detonation so I can't confirm that right now."