- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Bandar out West

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan today is expected to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney at his Wyoming residence, a source close to the ambassador said.

No details of the meeting were available yesterday, but Prince Bandar is likely to discuss criticism of his country’s efforts to combat terrorism.

In recent weeks, Prince Bandar has opened a public relations campaign to promote moves Saudi Arabia has taken to arrest suspected terrorists and close money-laundering networks. Saudi Arabia was shocked into action by the May terrorist bombings in the capital, Riyadh.

Prince Bandar, the most senior foreign ambassador in Washington, yesterday made a social call to former President George Bush.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department this week announced the formation of a joint task force with Saudi Arabia to track terrorist financing.

David Aufhauser, the department’s general counsel, said the task force will include agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to Treasury officials.

Saudi Arabia has come under strong criticism for links to terrorist financing through Saudi charities.

Even Prince Bandar’s wife, Princess Haifa, faced embarrassment last year when news reports said some of her charitable donations ended up financing two of the September 11 hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudis.

Members of Congress complained when references to Saudi Arabia were censored from a recent government report on the September 11 attacks. The White House defended the censorship on national-security grounds.

Also yesterday, Saudi critic Stephen Schwartz called for Prince Bandar’s expulsion. Mr. Schwartz, author of “The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and its Role in Terrorism,” said Prince Bandar can no longer be trusted.

“It is long past time to demand a housecleaning at the Saudi Embassy in Washington,” he wrote in an article on National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

Arming Taiwan

The top U.S. official in Taiwan is urging the island to increase military spending to counter a “growing threat” from China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province.

“This year, we expect at least 74 new missiles to be deployed opposite Taiwan,” Douglas Paal, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said this week.

“The growing threat from these missiles clearly heightens tensions in the [Taiwan] Strait and in the region by improving China’s capacity to launch a strike against Taiwan with little or no warning time.”

Mr. Paal, speaking at a seminar in the capital, Taipei, cited a Pentagon study that shows China has already deployed 450 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Even more disturbing is the fact that the People’s Republic of China has accelerated these deployments in recent months,” he said.

Taiwanese news reports said Prime Minister Yu Shyi-kun told the United States that his government will spend $20.5 billion over the next 10 years to improve its defenses. Taiwan is considering the purchase of eight submarines, a long-range early-warning radar system and Patriot PAC-3 missile-defense systems.

Although the United States has no formal diplomatic presence in Taiwan, Mr. Paal fulfills the role of an ambassador. The American Institute serves, in effect, as a U.S. embassy.

Lebanese troops sought

The United States yesterday urged Lebanon to recognize the Iraqi interim government and send troops to help stabilize the country, U.S. Ambassador Vincent Battle said.

“We have asked all countries, among them Lebanon, to work with the Iraqi Governing Council to receive representatives of this council and to interact with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry,” he told reporters in Beirut, after meeting with a top Lebanese official.

Mr. Battle said he also asked Lebanon to send troops or at least a message of support for the international efforts to combat terrorism and guerrilla attacks in Iraq and to help rebuild the civilian administration.

He met with reporters after meeting Naji Abi Assi, director of political affairs in Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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