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Saudi: Crown's money didn't go to hijackers


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An adviser to Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Sunday he doesn't believe charitable donations given by a Saudi princess to students in the United States made it to the September 11 hijackers.

Adel al-Jubeir, the chief international policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, said U.S. agencies have no evidence that money from the princess reached the hijackers.

"If any is uncovered, we would like to see it and we would like to deal with it," he said. "But as of this time, I don't believe that any of the funds made it to the hijackers."

An inquiry by the joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee has suggested there is evidence that money from the princess made its way to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi via two Saudi students in San Diego, Omar Al Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. Basnan's wife had asked the princess for financial help, signing checks she received over to her husband and Bayoumi.

Investigators say Almihdhar and Alhazmi were part of the al Qaeda crew that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing 184 people in the building and aboard the plane. Bayoumi and Basnan reportedly were acquainted with the two men.

The probe has exposed raw nerves between Washington and the Saudi capital of Riyadh at a time when the United States is seeking Saudi support in a possible military confrontation with Iraq. Al-Jubeir defended Saudi authorities from accusations that they have not done enough to crack down on terrorist funding from its citizens.

"I doubt that there is any country on the planet that has cooperated as closely with the United States on the war on terrorism as Saudi Arabia has," he said.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, said the Saudis have cooperated well with U.S. officials on investigations outside Saudi Arabia. But Bayh, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the Saudis need to offer more help in cases "that touch internally within Saudi Arabia."

"There seems to be a level of -- for lack of a better word -- denial about how permeated some aspects of the society are with sympathizers for radical causes," Bayh said.

He said there was no sign the Saudis intentionally gave money to terrorists,

"But there are charities there, there are individuals there from which money does flow to organizations and groups that we have a lot of concern about, and we need greater cooperation in terms of cracking down on those groups," Bayh said.

But al-Jubeir said the Saudis have boosted oversight of their extensive network of charities.

"A number of our charities, especially those operating outside Saudi Arabia, did not have sufficient financial control mechanisms to ensure that the funds that were raised and that were spent actually went to where they were supposed to go," he said. "And that's the area that we've now fixed."



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