INTERNATIONAL

U.S. in a bind on charges of Saudi funds for terrorists

Washington Nov. 24. The Bush administration appears to have yet another headache on its hands when it decides the course of action on allegations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not go far enough in pursuing leads that one member of the Saudi royal family may have given thousands of dollars by way of charitable contributions to a man who may have had some connection with two of the September 11,2001 hijackers.

Saudi Arabia has come out very strongly in denying that the wife of its Ambassador in Washington may have made any improper payments to a family of a Saudi national which eventually may have been diverted to two terrorist hijackers who slammed a commercial jet in the Pentagon on September 11 last year.

Enforcement officials are also making the point that the FBI had pursued the payments of Princess Haiffa and that no evidence had surfaced that the money was diverted to the terrorist hijackers.

Princess Haiffa, the daughter of the late King Faisal, began donating $ 2000 a month from 1998 to the Saudi family in question after receiving a plea for medical assistance. The Princess is also said to have provided $ 15,000 for the same purpose prior to the start of the monthly instalment payments.

The FBI has been interested in Osama Bassnan — who had received help from the Saudi Royal family — and Omar al Bayoumi, both having lived in San Diego and said to have befriended and assisted two terrorist hijackers in the months preceding 9/11.

Mr Bayoumi had left the United States in 2001 and Mr. Bassnan is said to have been deported in recent days for visa fraud.

The brunt of the criticism over the fashion in which the FBI has gone about investigating any perceived links with Official Saudi Arabia is coming from Congress.

It has to be recalled that 15 out of the 19 terrorist hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration finds itself in a tight situation domestically and overseas. The administration is trying to make the point that the agency has gone about handling the sensitive investigation — especially as it pertains to Saudi Arabia — in a proper fashion.

At the same time, it will have to face Congressional criticism that intelligence agencies have not properly accounted for how the terrorist hijackers were bankrolled financially in this country.

In terms of foreign policy the Bush administration has been quite wary of picking an open fight with the Government of Saudi Arabia.

Already there is a private view that the Saudi Arabian Government has not been forthcoming in the investigations, a view very openly bandied about on Capitol Hill.

Now with the Bush administration's obsession with Iraq and the need for Arab `support', criticism of Saudi Arabia is seen to be even more difficult.