U.S.: Saudis declined to cooperate
on Al Qaida from 1996-2001

Friday, July 25, 2003

Saudi Arabia refused to cooperate with the United States regarding Al Qaida in the years leading up to the suicide strikes by the organization in New York and Washington in 2001.

An unclassified version of the congressional investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks asserts that Saudi Arabia failed to provide information on Al Qaida, including members believed to have been planning attacks on U.S. facilities. The unclassified version said the United States arrived at that conclusion as early as 1996, two years before the Al Qaida bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and five years before the suicide hijackings.

"According to a U.S. government official, it was clear from about 1996 that the Saudi government would not cooperate with the United States on matters related to Osama Bin Laden," the report said.

On Thursday, the Saudi embassy in Washington dismissed assertions that Saudi Arabia had cooperated with Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported.

Congressional sources said the unclassified version of the report eliminated most references to Saudi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, including whether Riyad helped Al Qaida in its plot to attack the United States. Fifteen of the 19 Al Qaida airplane hijackers in the September 2001 attacks were Saudi nationals.

The report cited "foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers while they were in the United States." The unclassified version did not elaborate.

Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said counter-terrorism cooperation has been bolstered between Riyad and Washington.

"Cooperation between our two countries in fighting terrorism is excellent in all areas and has never been greater," Prince Bandar said in a statement issued Thursday. "It is disappointing that despite everything we are doing, outrageous charges continue. They are not based in fact and only serve to denigrate Saudi Arabia, which is exactly what Bin Laden wanted to accomplish."

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