U.S. has quietly expelled dozens
of Saudi diplomats

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The United States has ordered the expulsion of dozens of Saudi diplomats suspected of helping promulgate Al Qaida ideology, diplomatic sources said. The State Dept. has refused to either confirm or deny the action..

The State Department revoked the diplomatic credentials of the Saudi diplomats in Washington over the last month in an effort to crack down on Saudi efforts to promote Al Qaida interests in the United States.

The diplomatic sources said about 70 diplomats and embassy staffers were expelled in late 2003 and dozens of others were ordered to leave the United States by mid-February. Many of those expelled were said to have worked in the office of the Saudi defense attache.

In all, about 70 Saudi diplomats have left the United States since January, the sources said. They did not include Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the longest serving diplomat in the United States.

The State Department has refused to confirm the expulsion of the Saudi diplomats. "I can't confirm it at this point," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday. "I'll see if there's anything I can say for you."

The Saudi diplomats, in a determination made by the FBI and Homeland Security Department, were said to have abused their diplomatic privileges in the United States. The sources said most of the diplomats were responsible for operations of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America [IIASA] located in Fairfax, Va.

IIASA, established in 1988, has provided free training for hundreds of Muslims in the United States in Wahabi ideology, the basis for Al Qaida. The institute is one of six overseas branches of the main religious university in Saudi Arabia.

The Washington-based Saudi Information Agency, operated by the Saudi opposition, identified the Saudi diplomats who work at the institute as Fuad Gunaim, Ibrahim Al Kulaib, Abdallah Al Saif, Saleh Al Sunae, Fahd Al Amer, Saab Al Saab, and Yousef Al Shubaily.

The U.S. decision to expel the diplomats was said to have stemmed from a Houston, Texas conference in December 2003. The Saudi opposition agency said Saudi diplomats had planned to attend the conference with what it termed "known supporters of Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. The Saudi embassy canceled its participation in the conference after the Washington Post reported the involvement of the diplomats.

The conference was to have been addressed by a senior Saudi cleric Sheik Abdullah Bin Jebreen, who has publicly supported Bin Laden and his war against the United States, the agency said. Jebreen addressed the conference via video link from Riyad.

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The agency said Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan has refused to take responsibility for the Saudi embassy in Washington. The agency cited a source as saying he hasn't entered the embassy in years.

"Many diplomats have not seen the ambassador for years," the source said. "Bandar spends most of his time at his mansions around the U.S. and the world, instead of carrying on his ambassadorial duties."

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