Saudi Arabia Says 9/11 Cash Charges Are Lies
By Ghaida Ghantous
DUBAI (Reuters - 25 Nov) - Saudi Arabia Monday dismissed as lies charges that it financed September 11 hijackers, and some newspapers said the allegations were a desperate attempt by U.S. hawks to get Saudi support for a possible war against Iraq.
The U.S. Congress has launched an inquiry into a possible money trail from the Saudi government to two of the 19 hijackers who crashed jets into U.S. cities, threatening to put a further strain on already sour ties between the two allies.
"These are nothing but lies and baseless words," Interior Minister Prince Nayef said in comments carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
He said it was normal for Saudis to offer financial support to fellow nationals living abroad. "If they are going to make an accusation of every assistance extended by one Saudi to another, then there is a problem and this should not be the case."
A slew of anti-Saudi comments in the United States, after 15 Saudis were named among the hijackers, and Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias have raised Saudi ire and sparked rare calls in the kingdom to review ties with its key Western ally.
Some U.S. politicians have called for similar action by Washington, particularly after a report for the Defense Department called the kingdom an enemy and funder of terrorism.
"Under the current strategy to hit Iraq, suspicions and accusations are being used by American foxes to...pressure the kingdom to directly enter a war," the popular daily al-Riyadh said in an editorial. "Despite our commitment to being a friend to America, we refuse to be blackmailed," it said.
Saudi newspapers usually reflect government thinking.
Riyadh has publicly opposed military action against Iraq and has yet to decide whether to let Washington use its facilities in a possible attack to rid Baghdad of alleged weapons of mass destruction.
"The campaign is a political one which clearly aims to blackmail Saudi Arabia, distort its reputation and try to influence its positions and turn others against it," said an editorial in the daily al-Watan.
"The latest campaign by the Zionist lobby in America will fail and will not affect the kingdom or its stances and will not affect the strength of ties with the United States," it added.
The charges, first published by Newsweek magazine, are that Saudi money reached the hijackers, possibly via two Saudi students living in the United States who had obtained it from an account in the name of Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
Adel al-Jubeir, an aide to the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, said there was no evidence the Saudi government sent money to the hijackers and that his country was mercilessly pursuing al Qaeda, which is blamed for the attacks.
He told CNN the Saudis had thought the money trail issue was closed, and its revival by the U.S. Congress "leads me to believe that the people who are behind this are more interested in scoring political brownie points than arriving at the truth."
Al-Nadwa newspaper said the allegations were part of a ploy by the "Zionist lobby" to harm relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.
The daily al-Riyadh said the campaign was the first step toward "severing ties with Muslims and waging a long war which places the two sides in a cycle of confrontation which does not benefit anybody."