Saudi official, Bush to meet on 9/11 report
Source: Official will seek release of material related to kingdom
From John King
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi Arabia's foreign minister will meet Tuesday with President Bush about allegations of possible Saudi links to terrorism -- an issue that has flared anew with a new congressional report on the September 11, 2001 attacks.
One diplomatic source said the Saudis will seek the release of Saudi-related material that was kept out of the public version of that report. The meeting was confirmed by White House and diplomatic sources.
The Saudis are upset about recent verbal attacks in Congress against their government. Several sources familiar with the censored material in the report say it points to alleged links between the oil-rich kingdom and terrorism -- a charge disputed by Saudi officials.
Prince Saud al Faisal is to meet with Bush at the White House and will likely spend time with other senior administration officials as well, the diplomatic and administration sources said.
The diplomatic source said the Saudi government wanted "White House help" to quiet the dispute, and said the Saudi government was being "recklessly smeared" by some members of Congress who have said some material was kept classified because the administration is trying to protect the Saudi government and keep incriminating information out of the public eye.
Asked whether the Saudis wanted the material declassified, this diplomatic source said, "That would be one way to stop some of the reckless things and one of the things to be discussed."
As an example, the Saudis are said to be upset at New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer's comment last week that there was "an attempt here to conceal evidence that implicates the Saudi regime in a terrible tragedy."
The White House official who confirmed the meeting said he was not aware of any request to declassify the material. That official said, "The materials that were kept out of the report were kept out for legitimate national security and law enforcement reasons."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, in a telephone conversation with CNN, also said he was not aware of any Saudi request to declassify the material.
The "vast majority of the materials were declassified," he said, adding, "I don't think anyone would want us to declassify information that would perhaps divulge sources and methods of intelligence gathering, compromise any ongoing investigations or otherwise harm our national security."
Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham sent a letter to Bush on Monday, asking him to release censored parts of the congressional report. Declassifying more intelligence information, Graham wrote, could clear up the matter.
"That will permit the Saudi government to deal with any questions which may be raised in the currently censored pages, and allow the American people to make their own judgment about who are our true friends and allies in the war on terrorism," he wrote. (Full story)
Last week, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, expressed outrage at the decision to keep parts of the report dealing with Saudi Arabia classified.
"Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages," the prince said.
He called it "unfortunate that false accusations against Saudi Arabia continue to be made by some for political purposes.
"There is something wrong with the basic logic of those who spread these spurious charges. Al Qaeda is a cult that is seeking to destroy Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States," he said. "By what logic would we support a cult that is trying to kill us?" (Saudi raid on suspected militants)