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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Bush advised to demand Saudi help

November 26, 2002

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— A National Security Council task force is recommending an action plan to President Bush that is designed to force Saudi Arabia to crack down on terrorist financiers within 90 days or face unilateral U.S. action to bring the suspects to justice, senior U.S. officials said Monday.

The interagency plan, devised before the recent furor about allegations of Saudi involvement in terror financing, comes amid growing concern among some congressional leaders and U.S. allies that the administration has been unwilling to press Saudi Arabia for action for fear of alienating a key Arab ally as possible war with Iraq looms.

The officials would not say what unilateral U.S. action might entail. But they said the United States would first present the Saudis with intelligence and evidence against individuals and businesses suspected of financing al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, coupled with a demand that they be put out of business. In return, one senior official said, the administration will say, "We don't care how you deal with the problem; just do it or we will" after 90 days.

U.S. intelligence agencies and financial investigators have put together a classified, working list of nine wealthy individuals believed to be the core group of financiers for al- Qaida and other radical Islamic terror groups, U.S. officials said. Of those, seven are Saudis, one is a Pakistani merchant and one is an Egyptian businessman. The officials would not identify the individuals.

The Saudis say, however, that they have been cooperating in the war on terror financing and have not been presented with solid evidence on some targets of the proposed U.S. crackdown.

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