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Alleged Libyan plot to kill Saudi ruler investigated

From David Ensor

Moammar Gadhafi
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Prisoners tell authorities about an alleged Libyan plot to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia. CNN's David Ensor reports. (June 10)
Moammar Gadhafi
Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi Arabian and U.S. authorities are investigating an alleged plot by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah, according to law enforcement authorities in both countries.

Libya said the allegations were false. "We were surprised by this [report] and we deny it completely and categorically," Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, Libya's foreign minister, told Reuters news service.

Investigators are following up on information from two prisoners -- an American Muslim leader in jail in Virginia and a Libyan intelligence officer held in Saudi Arabia, the authorities said.

Asked Thursday about reports of the plot, President Bush said, "We're going to make sure we fully understand the veracity of the plotline. And so, we're looking into it. ... When we find out the facts, we will deal with them accordingly."

Speaking to reporters at the G-8 summit on Sea Island, Georgia, Bush added, "I don't talk to Col. Gadhafi. I have sent a message to him, that if he honors his commitments to resist terror and to fully disclose and disarm his weapons programs, we will begin a process of normalization, which we have done. We have begun that process. And now we will make sure he honors his commitment."

Law enforcement sources in the United States and Saudi Arabia said Abdurahman Alamoudi, the American prisoner, has told investigators he met with Gadhafi in June and August of last year to discuss details of the assassination plot.

Alamoudi's attorney Stanley Cohen told CNN, "Dr. Alamoudi is waiting his day and is cooperating with U.S. authorities on a variety of issues of concern to the U.S. He is shocked over the extent of the leaks coming from apparent sources in law enforcement or the intelligence community. It is something we are all concerned about."

As a revolutionary who overthrew the Libyan monarchy, Gadhafi is said to regard the Saudi monarchy with contempt. The crown prince is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

This story was first reported in The New York Times.

The sources warned that it is not clear how serious or consistent the Libyan leader may have been about trying to have the crown prince killed, but if the evidence bears out, it could have a major impact on the U.S.-Libyan relationship.

That relationship has been improving rapidly since Gadhafi pledged to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction and invited U.S. and British experts in to supervise the process.

Sanctions lifted

In April, the Bush administration lifted most U.S. sanctions against Libya, opening the way for U.S. investments and commercial activities. That move was taken in recognition of the steps Libya has taken over the past months to renounce terrorism and to voluntarily eliminate its WMD and longer-range missile programs.

The lifting of the sanctions makes most commercial business, investment and trade with Libya possible but maintains controls on exports to Libya in accordance with the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

The removal of sanctions means the United States will no longer punish countries that do business with Libya. The United States in February dropped its 23-year-old ban on travel to Libya by U.S. citizens and permits Americans to spend money in the country.

The restraints on U.S. exports to Libya under the State Department's terrorism list prohibit the sale of dual-use goods -- items that could be used for military purposes -- ammunition and some goods related to civil aviation.

Libya announced in December it had engaged in researching programs of mass destruction and promised to scrap them. While U.S. and British intelligence had spoken of a fairly advanced program, the International Atomic Energy Agency initially described Libya's nuclear activities as at the beginning stage.

The Libyan government is to make payments to the families of victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December of 1988.

Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing last year. The lifting of the sanctions does not detract from Libya's obligation to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million per family, in compensation for the 270 victims.

The United States imposed travel and other restrictions on Libya in the early 1980s and added broad sanctions in 1986 after Libya was blamed for the bombing of a disco in Berlin, Germany, that killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and wounded 229, including 79 Americans.

The sanctions were expanded by the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which cited Libya's failure to comply with U.N. resolutions, support of terrorism and efforts to acquire WMD.

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