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Saudis: 9/11 allegations meant to split 'allies'

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal appears on CNN's
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal appears on CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday.

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McCLEAN, Virginia (CNN) -- Allegations that Saudi Arabia had links to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are meant to drive a wedge between two allies in the war against the al Qaeda terrorist network, the kingdom's foreign minister said Tuesday.

"We are fighting a battle together," Prince Saud al Faisal told ABC. "And in that battle, we need the confidence and the trust of each other in order to win the war."

Saud defended his nation's record in fighting terrorism. On Tuesday, he urged U.S. President George W. Bush to unseal 28 classified pages of an 800-plus-page report on intelligence surrounding the September 11 attacks in order to allow the Saudi government to defend itself. Bush has refused his request.

Sen. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the classified section contains "compelling evidence" that "one or more foreign governments" assisted some of the September 11 hijackers.

"We want to see them for two reasons," Saud told CNN's American Morning. "If there are accusations against Saudi Arabia, we want to respond to it, because we know we are clear of any accusations. But if there are any also information about possible supporters of terrorists, we want to know about them to take care of the situation."

Bush said declassifying the entire report, which runs more than 800 pages, would compromise intelligence sources. Saud called the decision disappointing but understandable.

Graham, a Democratic presidential candidate, and Sen. Richard Shelby -- the committee's ranking Republican when the report was prepared -- have said only a small portion of the report needs to be kept secret.

Saud said those who have seen the report are not supposed to talk about it. "But they are not only doing that, they are casting aspersions against my country. We have not read the report. We do not know what's in it. Is that justice? Is that what's going to bring the truth out?"

Although 15 of the 19 hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, Saudi officials said that al Qaeda opposes the Saudi monarchy, and they vehemently deny the hijackers received any official governmental help.

"These people are attacking us. They are killing us. It sounds morbid to say that we would protect those who would kill us," Saud said.

Congressional officials highlight the case of Omar al-Bayoumi, an employee of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, as one example of possible Saudi help to the men who slammed planes into New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon -- as well as hijacking and crashing a plane over Pennsylvania.

Families representing victims of the attacks have questioned whether al-Bayoumi was working as a Saudi agent when he helped two of the hijackers.

Investigators believe al-Bayoumi helped two of the hijackers settle in San Diego, California, in January 2000 and provided some financial assistance to them, although officials disagree on the extent of the aid.

Saud has told the White House that the FBI can question al-Bayoumi.

According to U.S. officials, al-Bayoumi helped arrange the move of hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, to a San Diego apartment. At the time, al-Bayoumi was active in San Diego's Muslim community, but he has since returned to Saudi Arabia.

Saud said al-Bayoumi has been questioned by U.S., British and Saudi officials and has not been charged with a crime.

"We are just as interested as the American officials," Saud said. "If Bayoumi has connections, if there are supporters, wherever they are in Saudi Arabia for terrorists, we want to catch them."


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