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Screws Put On Saudis To Tackle Al-Qaeda Financiers

The United States is pressuring Saudi Arabia to crack down on terrorist financiers within 90 days or face unilateral American action to bring the suspects to justice.

The plan, devised before the recent row over allegations of Saudi involvement in terrorist financing, comes amid growing concern among some congressional leaders and US allies that the Administration has been unwilling to press Saudi Arabia for action for fear of alienating a key Arab ally ahead of a possible war with Iraq.

The officials would not say what US action might entail. But they said the US would first present the Saudis with intelligence and evidence against people and businesses suspected of backing al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, coupled with a demand they be put out of business. In return, one 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.

The ramifications of this are unclear, but if the government follows through, it will show some definite moral conviction and could even remove something from the list of liberal complaints against Bush. Of course, if the US action turns out to be putting King Fahd on the administration's hit list after Saddam, things might go downhill. Although I think a slap on the wrist is the more likely direction for the administration to err.


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