- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

LONDONKing Abdullah, the first Saudi monarch to visit Britain in a generation, embarrassed his hosts even before his arrival last night by suggesting that the government had ignored a Saudi intelligence tip that might have prevented a wave of transit bombings two years ago.

The explosions killed 52 passengers and four bombers, who targeted three underground trains and a double-decker bus in the British capital during the busy morning of July 7, 2005.

Hours before his jetliner landed in London, Abdullah told the British Broadcasting Corp. in a rare interview that “we have sent information to Britain before the terrorist attack … but unfortunately no action was taken.”

Had the British acted on the intelligence, the king told the BBC through an interpreter, “it may have been able, maybe, to avert the tragedy.”

Abdullah’s statement contradicted the results of an investigation by a British Parliament intelligence and security committee, which insisted that it found no evidence that Riyadh authorities had passed on any intelligence that could have prevented the suicide attacks.

Published reports yesterday said Saudi Arabia had notified Britain about the arrest of a young Saudi man who, authorities there said, had confessed to raising funds in the Middle East for a terrorist attack.

“The subsequent intelligence briefing reportedly included information that the plot would be carried out by four attackers, at least some of whom would be British citizens using explosives,” the Sunday Times reported, but “no information was obtained about dates, names or locations of the attacks.”

In his BBC interview, King Abdullah complained that “most countries are not taking this issue [of international terrorism] seriously, including, unfortunately, Great Britain.”

Saudi Arabia, the homeland to 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, also has been criticized for its approach to fighting terrorism.

The State Department’s 2006 terrorism report cites a “mix of successes and setbacks” in the Saudi effort, noting that it has established a special security court, begun planning a border security system and cracked down on terrorist financing.

But, the report said, the kingdom had suffered embarrassing prison breaks and still faced difficulties “in combating the appeal of [al Qaeda] ideology.”

The king’s visit was further marred by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s last-minute cancellation of a key meeting with one of the monarch’s closest aides, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, because of the arrival of Mr. Miliband’s second adopted son, Jacob.

Mr. al-Faisal refused to meet instead with the British minister’s deputy, Kim Howells, whom the Saudi minister deemed to be too junior for such a high-profile engagement.

The British Foreign Office denied any connection between Mr. Miliband’s cancellation and the king’s remarks to the BBC.

The Saudi king’s itinerary in Britain includes a meeting with Prince Charles, heir-apparent to the throne, and a state dinner hosted at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II.

Further opportunities for controversy will arise before Abdullah’s departure on Thursday, including a mass demonstration, possibly Wednesday, outside the Saudi Embassy in London.

Among those supporting the protest is member of Parliament John McDonnell, who has described the Saudi king as “one of the most prominent anti-democratic and human-rights-abusing leaders in the world.”

“Why is it,” Mr. McDonnell asked, “that in the same breath the [British] prime minister condemns the lack of democracy in Burma and the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe but remains silent when it comes to the Saudi dictatorship?”

Simmering in the background are accusations of fraud involved in Britain’s sale of more than $80 billion worth of arms, including 72 Eurofighter aircraft, to Saudi Arabia in the past two decades.

Prime Minister Tony Blair last year ordered a halt to a long-running investigation into the corruption charges by the Serious Fraud Office. Mr. Blair argued that to continue the investigation could jeopardize Saudi security cooperation in the war against international terrorism.

But critics of the prime minister suggested that Mr. Blair was more worried about jeopardizing the Eurofighter contract, and the accusations and counteraccusations over the weapons deal continue.

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