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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Saudis Ask Bush to Declassify 9/11 Report

Aired July 29, 2003 - 19:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister is condemning the congressional report on the September 11 terrorist attacks, saying it unfairly attacks his country.
Saudi officials are upset because the censored report raises questions about a possible link between Saudi Arabia and the hijackers. As we said, it's the censored report. The foreign minister wants the classified sections to be unsealed, but it's run into objections from the U.S. government.

Our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, has more now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Request denied. Hours before a hastily arranged meeting with the Saudi foreign minister President Bush rejected a Saudi demand to declassify some of the recently released congressional report on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's an ongoing investigation into the 9/11 attacks. And we don't want to compromise that investigation.

KOPPEL: At the heart of the Saudi kingdom's concern, one blacked out section in an 800-page report, focusing on the role foreign governments played in the hijackings.

Sources familiar with this section say it includes evidence senior members of the Saudi royal family assisted some of the hijackers.

Foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal said his government has been indicted by insinuation and said Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide.

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: We believe that releasing the missing 28 pages will allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner.

KOPPEL: Some Democrats accuse President Bush of playing politics, suggesting the White House wants to project a key ally, Saudi Arabia, because it has the world's largest oil reserves and long-standing ties to the Bush family.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The motivations here are more political than they are national security.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL: Administration officials insist they're getting good cooperation from the Saudi government in investigating the 9/11 attacks.

And as proof they point to the green light they got today from the Saudi foreign minister to interview, at least for the FBI to interview, Omar Al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national who befriended two of the 9/11 hijackers when they arrived in California before 9/1. And also, Anderson, he allegedly helped to fund their mission -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Andrea Koppel, thanks very much, at the State Department.

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