- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

A senior Saudi Arabian security official told an Arabic newspaper late last month he believed Jews masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks, a revelation that caps a rocky week in which Saudi efforts in the global war on terrorism have been sharply questioned.
In a newly released English transcript of the interview, given to the Kuwaiti daily Al Siyasa, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef ibn Abdul AI said the "Zionist-controlled media" had used the attacks to drive a wedge between Washington and Riyadh.
"We put big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11 and who benefited from them," Prince Nayef said. "I think [the Jews] were behind these events."
The Saudi government earlier this week stepped up an already aggressive public relations campaign to shore up its image as an ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, battling continued criticism in Congress and new reports that Saudi money was being used to finance radical Islamic movements.
Top Saudi officials have not commented on the interior minister's remarks, but the text of the lengthy interview was displayed on a Web site (www.ain-al-yaqeen.com) that provides official policy pronouncements and press interviews by top government officials.
The Saudi government has never officially declared al Qaeda responsible for the September 11 strikes and has said the Saudi nationals involved in the attacks were purposely drafted to embarrass the government.
The Saudi royal family argues that it is the main target of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network, which are determined to drive U.S. and other Western forces from the country housing many of Islam's holiest sites.
The Bush administration, which hopes to secure the use of bases in Saudi Arabia as a staging area for a potential war with Iraq, has consistently praised Saudi efforts to stem the flow of funds to terrorist groups, in particular by clamping down on Islamic charity networks that were exploited by al Qaeda and other groups.
Fifteen of the 19 September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and influential Saudi mosques routinely criticize the United States and Israel. A Council on Foreign Relations survey in October concluded: "For years, Saudi individuals and charities have been the most important source of funds for al Qaeda and for years Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to the problem."
"The interior minister's comments only serve to confirm American suspicions about the Saudi government's commitment to the war on terror," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, in a letter to the Saudi ambassador.
The Saudi government hoped to stem the criticism by announcing Tuesday a series of steps to tighten controls on charitable giving, and detailing the accounts frozen and the individuals detained by the government in the wake of September 11.
Adel Al-Jubeir, the government's leading foreign policy spokesman, denounced what he called a "feeding frenzy" in the United States news media to find fault with the Saudi record.
Prince Nayef, in the transcript of his interview, said the "hostile attitude" shown by U.S. and British newspapers toward the Saudi government "does not scare the kingdom, but it is annoying because it is unwarranted and does not serve our interests."
The idea that Israel or Jewish interests had a role in the September 11 strikes has had wide currency throughout the Middle East, including serious discussions in the Arab-language press over whether thousands of American Jews did not report to work at the World Trade Center that day because they were tipped off that an attack was imminent.

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