WASHINGTON – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister flew here Monday for talks with President Bush amid a raging controversy over a congressional report on the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Minister Saud al-Faisal’s visit was disclosed by two administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Saudi minister also will discuss the campaign against terror and Mideast peace prospects, one of the officials told The Associated Press.
Earlier, citing the Saudi ambassador’s claim that his country has “nothing to hide,” Sen. Bob Graham called Monday on President Bush to declassify a 28-page section of the congressional report into the Sept. 11 attacks dealing with foreign support for the hijackers.
Releasing the report “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,” Graham, D-Fla., said in a letter to Bush. Graham, who co-chaired the inquiry, is a Democratic presidential candidate.
After the report was released last Thursday, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan issued a statement saying that “28 blanked-out pages are being used by some to malign our country and our people.”
“Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages,” he said.
Citing those comments, Graham said Bandar “has joined in asking that the pages be declassified.”
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
House and Senate members released the full, 850-page report finding a series of errors and miscommunications kept U.S. authorities from pursuing clues before the attacks. The 28-page section dealing with “sensitive national security matters” was almost entirely redacted.
The information is widely believed to center on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied supporting the hijackers.
In discussing the classified section this weekend on “Fox News Sunday” Graham said high officials of a foreign government “made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11.”
He declined to identify the country, citing laws against divulging classified information.
The top Republican senator on the inquiry, Richard Shelby, said Sunday on NBC that 95 percent of the classified pages could be released without jeopardizing national security.