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Iran Hands Over al-Qaida Suspects to Saudi Arabia - 2002-08-11

Some members of Congress are taking a wait-and-see attitude with regard to the handling of 16 al-Qaida fighters who were handed-over to Saudi Arabia by Iran. The lawmakers so far seem unimpressed with the gesture. The al-Qaida fighters reportedly were on the run in Iran when they were captured and handed over to Saudi Arabia in June.

Appearing on the ABC television program This Week, Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal says the men are now being interrogated.

"The innocent ones will be let go and the guilty ones will be brought to trial," he said.

The al-Qaida fighters are reported to be Saudi citizens. The Iranians have said they would return captured al-Qaida fighters to their home countries.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is waiting to see how much the Saudis cooperate with regard to the captured al-Qaida fighters.

"We've had sort of hot and cold support from the Saudis when it comes to this war on terrorism," Senator Levin said. "The president says you're either with us or against us on the war on terrorism. The answer is, sometimes the Saudis are with us. Sometimes they are not. Hopefully they will allow us to participate in that interrogation at a miminum."

On the other side of the political aisle, Republican Senator Fred Thompson said he doesn't think much of the gesture in the war against terrorism, either on the part of Saudi Arabia or Iran.

"As far as Iran is concerned, of course, there's indication that they have cooperated with an assisted al-Qaida in times past," Senator Thompson said. "And the Saudis you know, it's a complex relationship. They're our friends but it's a marriage of convenience right now." Senator Thompson made his comments on the television program Fox News Sunday.

In an interview on the television show This Week. Prince al-Faisal expressed annoyance over claims that Saudi Arabia is not cooperating with anti-terrorism efforts or recent claims that it's promoting terrorism.

"Suddenly Saudi Arabia, that was considered a staunch ally ten years ago and even four years ago suddenly turns into a kernel of evil that spreads evil all over the place," Prince al-Faisal complained. "This is the question to ask. For us, we know that we are fighting terrorism, we are working assiduously with the United States in this regard."

The Saudi prince said information obtained from his country's interrogation of the al-Qaida members will be made available to the United States.