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Some friend, Saudi Arabia



Published: Thu, February 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



It was only months ago that Saudi Arabian spokesmen voiced outrage at the suggestion that the wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, would knowingly give money to the wife of a man who had suspicious ties to some of the Sept. 11 terrorists.

Pure coincidence, we were told. The princess had a soft spot for Saudi nationals who came to the United States and fell upon hard times. She often send such folks thousands of dollars a month to help them keep body and soul together.

At the time we were reminded of the humanitarian concern the Saudi government had for dozens of relatives of Osama bin Laden who were in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Its concern was such that as soon as planes were allowed back in the sky, Saudi Arabia chartered one to get bin Laden's relatives out of the United States -- and, coincidentally, out of the reach of U.S. investigators.

Those were strikes one and two. Now the Saudis have taken a swing at a wild pitch and they are clearly out. That's out as in exposed, shown to have soft spot for terrorists and terrorist sympathizers that the United States should no longer tolerate.

What now?

The latest case involves Maha Hafeez Marri, the wife of Ali S. Al-Marri, an ethnic Saudi and a citizen of Qatar, who is charged with lying to the FBI about phone calls he reportedly made in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks to the number of an Al-Qaida operative. The operative, Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, reportedly received calls from several of the Sept. 11 terrorists and managed a bank account they used.

Al-Marri has been in custody and at the request of the Justice Department, the State Department confiscated the passports of his wife and their children until a grand jury could complete its inquiry.

The Saudis became impatient with the delay of that investigation and opined that it was an imposition of Maha Hafeez Marri, since she was unable to work due to the stress of her circumstances.

So after a letter from Prince Bandar to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking that the passports of Maha Hafeez Marri and her children be returned to her did not result in prompt action, the Saudi government took matters into its own hands. It issued her and her children new passports and put them on a plane back to Saudi Arabia.

Remember this the next time Saudi Arabia complains about how unfair it is to brand it as anything less than a stalwart ally of the United States in the war on terrorism.




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