- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Saudi officials, stung by American assertions they have been soft on terrorists, are divulging for the first time several intelligence and diplomatic favors they have provided the United States in the war on terrorism dating to 1997.

In interviews with the Associated Press, Saudi officials said the assistance has ranged from sharing information about a suspected leader in the al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in 1998 to intervention with Yemeni officials on behalf of Vice President Dick Cheney in the last year.

In early 2002, Mr. Cheney’s office called Saudi officials seeking help on the Yemeni extradition of an al Qaeda operative named Abu Mu’az al-Jeddawi. He was sent to Jordan with Saudi help.

U.S. officials confirm most of the Saudi accounts, saying the kingdom’s cooperation has been uneven at various times but improving steadily.

“Since September 11, 2001, the two countries have exchanged more than 3,500 memorandums dealing with counterterrorism efforts,” said Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. “This represents more than six memos per day and is a clear example of the intensive cooperation.”

The contributions, they said, have gone unacknowledged in part because of concerns that public disclosure may alienate a Saudi citizenry wary of cooperation with America or affect diplomatic relations with other Middle Eastern countries.

Officials said the Saudi desire to counter congressional criticisms, along with a heightened alert inside the kingdom after May 12 terrorist bombings in Riyadh killed 35 persons, have freed both sides to discuss previously secret cooperation.

U.S. officials and congressional leaders say the flow of Saudi information at times has been halting or incomplete, especially when it comes to questions about the kingdom’s own citizens.

“While the Saudi government insists that it is cooperating fully with U.S. law-enforcement efforts, our officials note the cooperation has been uneven,” said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

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