- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

‘Reckless charges’

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan is denouncing “unsubstantiated and reckless charges” by Sen. Bob Graham, whose new book says the Bush administration covered up Saudi support for the September 11 terrorists.

The Florida Democrat repeated his charges Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I think we lay out the case in this book of the extent to which Saudi Arabia was a key part of making 9/11 happen, and yet this administration has taken every step to obfuscate, avoid and cover up Saudi Arabia’s actions,” Mr. Graham told host Tim Russert.

Prince Bandar cited the September 11 commission report as proof that his government had no part in the attack, which involved 15 Saudis among the 19 terrorists.

“It is irresponsible for the senator to make statements that he says are based on intelligence when there are no basis for such allegations,” the ambassador said in remarks released yesterday by the Saudi Embassy.

“His claims have been completely discredited by the FBI and the independent and bipartisan 9/11 Commission. Senator Graham has repeatedly made unsubstantiated and reckless charges, including allegations that my own wife funded the 9/11 hijackers.”

The commission said it found no evidence to suggest that the ambassador’s wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, provided any assistance to the terrorists. It also discounted reports that two Saudi citizens, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, helped finance the terrorist operation.

In his book, “Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America’s War on Terror,” Mr. Graham charged that those men were Saudi agents and that the Bush administration blocked a congressional investigation into suspected links between the terrorists and the Saudi government.

“It was as if the president’s loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety,” he wrote.

Mr. Graham yesterday discussed his book with reporters in a conference call funded by the presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry.

Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said that since “Senator Graham’s biz-arre conspiracy theories and calls for the president’s impeach- ment so undermined his credibility, it is difficult to understand why the Kerry campaign would now lend him a platform to launch his latest accusations.”

Prince Bandar said his government is a dedicated ally of the United States, noting that his country has been targeted repeatedly by al Qaeda. “But together,” he said, “we are winning this war.”

Mourning for Russia

The U.S. ambassador to Russia expressed grief and outrage over the terrorist attack at a school in southern Russia that claimed at least 350 lives, about half of them children.

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow noted that the assault on the school in Beslan was the third terrorist attack in Russia in two weeks.

“We share your grief and your outrage at what has occurred,” he wrote in an article in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper.

“We share your grief, for the lesson we have learned is that an act of indiscriminate terror is an attack upon us all. We share your outrage, for no cause can ever justify such horrors perpetrated against children, their parents and teachers.”

The death toll is expected to rise because about 260 people still are listed as missing after terrorists took more than 1,000 hostages on the opening day of school last week. The assault followed terrorist attacks that brought down two Russian airliners and a suicide bombing near a Moscow subway station last month.

Mr. Vershbow pledged that Americans will stand by Russians “just as Russians stood with us on September 11, 2001.”

“We now understand all too well that terrorism has become a global menace that no nation can escape and no nation will be able to solve on its own,” he said.

“But even as we mourn, we must not lose heart. We must rededicate ourselves to the global struggle against terrorism.”

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

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