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Official: Saudis question al Qaeda suspects

Fighters were captured in Iran and handed over

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi Arabia is interrogating 16 suspected al Qaeda fighters handed over by Iran and is sharing the information it collects with the United States, a Saudi official said Sunday.

"Everything that we know and everything that we find out will be shared," Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabian foreign policy adviser, told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." Severe punishment awaits those found guilty, al-Jubeir said.

Also in the group Iran sent to Saudi Arabia were four women and six children. Al-Jubeir didn't explain their relationship to the prisoners.

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When asked whether any prisoners had ties to the September 11 attacks, al-Jubeir said it was too early to discuss the results of any interrogations.

Many al Qaeda and Taliban members fled to Iran after the Taliban regime was overthrown in Afghanistan.

In a statement, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that his country, within the framework of a U.N. Security Council resolution, has deported all Arabs who fought in Afghanistan to their countries of origin. The statement did not confirm or deny that any of the deportees were from al Qaeda, saying that such information is up to the countries of origin.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi foreign minister, discussed the fate of the prisoners Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"The innocent ones will be let go, and the guilty ones will be incarcerated and brought to trial," al-Faisal said. "Iran cooperated with us by handing over these prisoners."

President Bush has labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, part of an "axis of evil" that threatens global stability.

Saudi adviser takes issue with uncooperative label

Al-Jubeir defended Saudi Arabia's record with the United States in the investigation of terror incidents, denying earlier complaints that Saudi authorities didn't cooperate well in the investigation of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing attack that killed 19 U.S. airmen in eastern Saudi Arabia and in other probes.

"I think the FBI will tell you that Saudi Arabia has been cooperative with the Khobar Towers investigation and the war on terror," he said.

Al-Jubeir also took issue with a July report from the Rand Corp. to the Defense Advisory Board, a panel that advises the Pentagon on defense policy. The report portrayed Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States that funds fundamentalist mosques and schools.

According to the report, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."

It continued, "Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies."

Rand analyst Laurent Murawiec recommended that the United States seize Saudi oil fields and freeze its assets in the United States unless it shows more support.

"It's shocking," al-Jubeir said. "It's pure fiction."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later assured the Saudis that the report didn't reflect the official stance of the United States.




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