U.S. officials are calling for an intensive investigation of possible links between members of the Saudi royal family and international terrorism, including the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a statement saying it is looking into allegations that the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States gave money to the wife of a man who, in turn, may have given it to two of the September 11, 2001, hijackers.
The ambassador's wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, is the daughter of the late Saudi King Faisal.
Appearing on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Saudi spokesman Adel al Jubeir said the royal family often gives money to those in need, and the woman had asked for funds to treat a medical problem. But Mr. al Jubeir said Saudi Arabia will conduct its own investigation.
"If there are any links between anybody and any terrorist organization, we will pursue this vigorously," he said. "We will be merciless when it comes to dealing with people who support terrorism. I assure you of that."
Members of Congress expressed outrage over possible links between the Saudi royal family and September 11. Republican Senator Richard Shelby was asked, on NBC's Meet the Press, about the scope of a U.S. investigation into the possible funding of terrorists by members of the royal family inside Saudi Arabia.
"Well, I am not going to confirm an ongoing investigation. The FBI would have to do that or the Justice Department. But I can tell you this, I believe the FBI ought to relentlessly pursue these leads, wherever they go," he said.
Saudi Arabia has long been considered a U.S. ally, which is why Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman says he finds the latest allegations so distressing. Senator Lieberman says it is time for the United States to examine its relationship with Saudi Arabia, given what appears to be a strong Saudi connection to terrorism.
"Fifteen of the 19 terrorists from Saudi Arabia," he said. "An increasing trail of money going from Saudi Arabia to the terrorists. Remember the president's edict here, and it was the correct one, right after September 11 last year, said to the nations of the world, 'You are with us or with the terrorists. And if you are with the terrorists you are going to feel our wrath.' We have to apply it to our friends like Saudi Arabia, and either they have to change or the relationship we have with Saudi Arabia is going to change dramatically."
Senator Lieberman made his comments on the CBS program Face the Nation.