- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

LONDON — Saudi Arabia’s ruling family remains deeply upset over charges contained in secret portions of a U.S. report on the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, said a Saudi prince who ran his nation’s intelligence service until just days before September 11, 2001.

“All of us are very angry,” Prince Turki al-Faisal said in his first interview with a Western newspaper since taking over as ambassador to Britain earlier this year.

The Bush administration has refused to release a 28-page section of the congressional report, which is believed to implicate Saudi officials in the attacks, despite a personal appeal to President Bush last week by Prince Turki’s brother, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

“We are accused of something and they will not tell what we are accused of. We’re asked to do things and we don’t know what we are supposed to do,” Prince Turki said in his splendidly appointed offices at the Saudi Embassy in London.

“And those who have seen those 28 pages have come out and issued statements about Saudi Arabia that are vicious and, from our point of view, completely untrue,” he said.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the classified section of the report says two Saudi citizens who had indirect links with some of the hijackers were probably Saudi intelligence agents and might have reported to Saudi government officials.

Omar al-Bayoumi, named as one of those two Saudi citizens, said in an interview yesterday with Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that he was ready to discuss the suspicions with U.S. authorities.

“I sent a letter to [the Saudi] interior minister, saying I was innocent of these charges … and now I am ready to answer any question in this regard with the presence of CIA or FBI investigators and Saudi investigators on Saudi land,” he said.

Prince Turki, 57, who spent 24 years running the Saudi intelligence service, spoke openly in the interview of his past dealings with both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

“The most glaring similarity between them is that they do not mind shedding innocent blood. In both cases, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden made it an aim of theirs to shed the blood of the innocent,” said the Cambridge University-educated prince.

Bin Laden was in many respects a creation of the Saudi intelligence community when the Saudis were actively supporting Islamic fighters during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.

As the head of Saudi intelligence during that period, Prince Turki had several meetings with bin Laden, although he rejects any suggestion that he has had dealings with the al Qaeda leader since he founded the terrorist group in the early 1990s.

“At that time [during the 1980s], I would describe him as gentle and self-effacing, and hardly talking to anyone. Very shy,” said Prince Turki.

“There has been a remarkable transformation. Now he is in a self-deluding, maniacal stage where he believes that he is the anointed of God and everybody else is in league with the devil.”

The prince also said it was wrong to categorize al Qaeda as a predominantly Saudi organization. “Al Qaeda did not come out of Saudi Arabia, it came out of Afghanistan,” he said. “The fact that bin Laden is the leader of al Qaeda does not mean to say that it is a Saudi organization or group.”

While Prince Turki’s critics concentrate their energies on his relations with bin Laden and al Qaeda, relatively little attention is paid to his dealings with Saddam — even though the prince’s previous job required him to play a central role in monitoring the former Iraqi dictator’s program for weapons of mass destruction.

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