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US Lawmakers Criticize Saudis in Wake of Report on 9-11 Intelligence Failures - 2003-07-24


Saudi Arabia has come under intense criticism in the U.S. Congress coinciding with the release of the public report of a congressional joint committee on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Many in Congress, but principally Democrats, have long been critical of what they call Saudi Arabia's duplicity in the war on terror.

This is a charge strongly denied by Riyadh, a denial reiterated more specifically Thursday in relation to the 9-11 report by the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan called allegations contained in the September 11 report by the joint House-Senate intelligence committee "blatantly false," saying his government is one of the most active participants in the war on terror.

The allegations, in a blacked out section of the report the Bush administration refused to de-classify, raise questions about Riyadh's commitment to fighting Muslim extremism and discusses possible Saudi involvement in events leading to the September 11 attacks.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats are demanding President Bush de-classify the section of the 9-11 report on Saudi Arabia, saying in their words, "it is time to lift the veil of secrecy involving possible Saudi complicity in the events of 9-11."

Earlier, criticism of Saudi Arabia also emerged during House debate on foreign aid legislation.

Congressman Anthony Wiener, a New York Democrat, attempted to introduce an amendment that would have removed a small amount of money providing education funding for members of the Saudi military.

"This is our only opportunity to tell the Saudi Arabian government we expect a change in behavior," he said. "And this is our only opportunity to tell our colleagues at the State Department stop looking for the unicorn. Start looking at reality."

Congressman Wiener, one of the signatories of the letter to President Bush, later introduced another amendment proposing Saudi Arabia be added to a list of countries named by the U.S. State Department as terror-supporting states.

Both were rejected by the House, and by some of Mr. Weiner's fellow Democrats and New Yorkers.

"They [Saudi Arabia] are trying too to rid themselves and the rest of the world of this terrorist threat, that promises to topple their government, and then some others," said Congressman Gary Ackerman.

On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, another key Democrat, Charles Schumer, joined in calling on the White House to de-classify the section of the 9-11 report on Saudi Arabia.

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