Saudis defend actions
The Saudi Embassy is defending its decision to assist the wife of a terrorist suspect in leaving the United States but insists the FBI can interview the woman in Saudi Arabia.
The embassy issued new passports to Maha Hafeez Al Marri and her five children in November. The FBI confiscated their passports in 2001, after Mrs. Marri’s husband, Ali, was charged with suspected links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.
“Saudi Arabia assured the United States in a formal communication that Mrs. Marri will be made available to U.S. authorities should they wish to interview her,” the embassy said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
The embassy said Mrs. Marri “was never questioned by authorities nor given information about the time that would be required to remain in the U.S.” The embassy said it issued the passports 10 months after a grand jury investigating the case recessed without issuing an indictment against the woman.
“During this 10-month period, with no contact from the FBI, the Saudi Embassy made numerous inquiries to the U.S. government about allowing her to return to her family in Saudi Arabia,” the embassy said, adding that she had no money and needed medical treatment for Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder.
The Washington Post on Wednesday first reported on the case, quoting unidentified federal law enforcement officials as expressing anger over the embassy’s action. The officials said the embassy interfered with the investigation.
Marri was charged in December 2001 with lying to the FBI about his suspected contacts with Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who, prosecutors say, transferred tens of thousands of dollars to finance the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Doubts about Germany
The U.S. ambassador to Germany yesterday said Berlin’s continued opposition to war against Iraq is raising “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliance as a U.S. ally.
Ambassador Daniel R. Coats also urged Germany to reconsider its position now that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has presented evidence of Iraq’s refusal to comply with U.N. demands that it destroy its weapons of mass destruction.
“We hope that, in light of the evidence provided [Wednesday], which was very convincing, they will rethink their own positions and come over to us,” Mr. Coats said in an interview on Germany’s ZDF television station.
“If you ignore or hesitate over this very serious problem, as in the past, you don’t resolve it, but you make it worse. The decision time is coming.”
In a separate interview, Mr. Coats told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that “serious doubts have arisen [in the United States] as to whether Germany is still a reliable partner.”
Cyprus deal possible
The U.S. ambassador to Cyprus still believes Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots will meet a deadline to agree on a U.N. plan to reunite the divided island within the next three weeks.
“We are still very hopeful. We think it is possible to get a deal, and we are going to devote all our efforts to that end, getting a settlement by February 28,” Ambassador Thomas Weston told Reuters news agency this week.
The two sides, however, remain deadlocked over the plan, which Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has denounced as a “crime against humanity” because the United Nations proposes that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) return some land formerly occupied by Greek-Cypriots.
Mr. Weston based his optimism on the new government in Turkey, which favors a deal. Turkey, the only country to recognize the TRNC, knows that its hopes to join the European Union depend on its efforts to persuade the Turkish-Cypriots to accept a reunification plan.
“The government of Turkey has made it very clear it wants to have a settlement,” Mr. Weston said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposes a federal state with broad powers reserved for both communities, along with a return of land.
“There are obviously differing views in Turkey, as there are also in Greece and among the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities,” Mr. Weston said.
“But the general thrust is that everybody wants a settlement.”