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Lawmakers criticize Saudi Arabia

Saudis defend security steps, actions against terrorism

Some U.S. lawmakers believe Saudi authorities could have done more to prevent last week's attacks.
Some U.S. lawmakers believe Saudi authorities could have done more to prevent last week's attacks.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. lawmakers from across the political spectrum voiced a unified message Sunday to Saudi Arabia: It's time to commit fully to the international fight against terrorism.

"I don't think [the Saudis] have been a full partner like we would like to see," Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I think there has been a difference between reacting to terrorism that threatened the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and terrorism that actually threatened the U.S. interests. Now they know that's inseparable. This has been a Pearl Harbor or 9-11 for Saudi Arabia."

Democratic Rep. Jane Harman of California said she had a message for the Saudi kingdom: "Cut it out. You can't have it two ways anymore," she said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The Saudi leadership, she complained, is "saying two things: one thing to their street and their schoolkids and another thing to the world."

They were among a number of top Democrats and Republicans who related their message on television talk shows six days after a series of suicide bombings in Riyadh killed 25 people, including eight Americans, as well as nine suspected suicide bombers.

U.S. and Saudi officials believe al Qaeda was behind the attack. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has named the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia as one of his chief grievances.

Other lawmakers echoed Harman's argument that the Saudi Arabian rulers have been fomenting anti-American and anti-Israel extremism at home by condoning fiery rhetoric in schools and mosques while publicly professing allegiance to the United States in the war on terrorism.

"They do this double game because they've got this constituency that is so inflammable and can rise up and threaten the kingdom," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "But at the same time, they know that we are the one ally that they can really rely on."

Several lawmakers took Saudi leaders to task for what they called a failure to act on U.S. intelligence that had warned before Monday that an attack appeared imminent.

Ambassador: Saudis were asked to boost security

Robert Jordan, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said that after receiving intelligence reports about likely attacks, the United States asked the Saudis to boost security at residential compounds housing Westerners, but the request was never granted.

The deputy national security adviser to President Bush, Steven Hadley, was in Saudi Arabia recently and warned while he was there that residential compounds in Riyadh might be attacked. He asked the government to step up security at at least one of the compounds that were struck Monday, a senior administration official told CNN.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the United States, said Saudi authorities had decided before the attack that the measures in place were "adequate."

"We know that there was a massive security failure, and despite repeated warnings by U.S. intelligence, the Saudis did not take adequate measures," Harman said. "This was wrong, and it was preventable."

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia agreed. "Why they failed to take any action is just beyond me," he said.

Saudi foreign adviser Adel al-Jubeir denied the allegations. In appearances on several networks, he insisted that his country is and has been fully committed to the international effort against terrorism.

"I think ultimately a lot of critics who think that Saudi Arabia is not serious will be very surprised," he said on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

Saudi Arabia's conclusion that measures were "adequate" referred only to one particular compound, and it was correct, he said. "It is the only compound that the terrorists were not able to penetrate, and as a consequence, they blew themselves up outside the gates."

After receiving Hadley's recommendation, Saudi authorities began looking into increasing security at other compounds, he added.

The Saudi crown prince accepted all of Hadley's suggestions and offered his own for increasing protections even more, al-Jubeir said.

Saudi adviser: Anti-Jewish textbooks changed

Asked about Saudi school textbooks that call Christians and Jews "infidels" and call Jews "wicked," Jubeir said the Saudi government has "reviewed our educational systems" and made "adjustments."

Also, he said, "Our top religious authority and body in Saudi Arabia issued a ruling, a religious ruling, saying that it is un-Islamic to call people 'infidels,' because that's inciteful."

He insisted the kingdom is opposed to Palestinian terrorism against Israel, as well.

"Monday for us was a massive jolt," al-Jubeir said. Saudi Arabia understands that it needs to launch its antiterrorism efforts in a more public way, he said. "We now have to deal with these issues head-on. We cannot deal with them quietly, the way we have in the past. Our public demands action. Our public demands forceful action."

One U.S. lawmaker said that the Bush administration should share the blame for the security failures that preceded the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. John Kerry, a Democratic presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, said "It's insufficient for this administration to say, 'We notified them, but they didn't do anything.' It's the obligation of this administration to make sure that they are doing something.

"You don't do it by passing on a communication and then sitting there," he continued. "You have to be engaged. And many people are wondering whether we have been tough enough in our relationship with Saudis, with Saudi Arabia."


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