Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US looking into Qaddafi report

ASSASSINATION George W. Bush said he was taking seriously a newspaper report which said that the Libyan leader had planned to have the Saudi crown prince killed

AFP , WASHINGTON

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, right, and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz are shown in these recent file photos.

PHOTO: AFP

The US is investigating a report that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi last year planned to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, President George W. Bush said Thursday.

The US government has approached Libya over alleged contacts with Saudi dissidents, the State Department said, adding that for the moment it was not in a position to say whether the plot reported by The New York Times was true.

But any confirmation of the report could deal a blow to Qaddafi's attempts to break the isolation of his country, which last year agreed to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs.

"What I can tell you is that we're going to make sure we fully understand the veracity of the plot line. And so we are looking into it," Bush told a press conference at the end of the Group of Eight summit in Sea Island, Georgia.

"When we find out the facts, we will deal with them accordingly," he added.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that the US last year approached Libya about reports that the Qaddafi regime was "in contact with Saudi dissidents who have threatened violence against the Saudi royal family.

"We raised those concerns directly with the Libyan leadership and they assured us that they would not support the use of violence for settling political differences with any state," Boucher said.

Washington was "monitoring Libya's behavior carefully," the spokesman went on, adding: "We have subsequently reinforced our concerns in various meetings, including meetings at the high levels."

Boucher said that Libya has taken significant steps "to eliminate most of its contacts with terrorism, but we're not yet at a point to certify, either with regard to these specific allegations or to other things, that Libya has totally eliminated its contacts and support for terrorism."

The Times said two people involved in a plot to fire rockets at a motorcade of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz had been detained in the US and Saudi Arabia.

The plot is being investigated by the US, Saudi Arabia and Britain, people with knowledge of the case told the daily.

A senior Bush administration official was quoted as saying that the emergence of convincing evidence that Qaddafi ordered or condoned an assassination and terror campaign could cause a "180 degree" change of US policy toward Libya.

The two detained over the plot were named as Abrurahman Almoudi, an American arrested in October for violating a US ban on travel to Libya, and Colonel Mohamed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer captured by Egyptian police in November after he fled Saudi Arabia.

Almoudi reportedly said he met twice with Qaddafi in June and August of last year to discuss the assassination.

Despite its agreement with Britain and the US to end its weapons programs, Libya remains on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bush told the press conference "I don't talk to Colonel Qaddafi. I have sent a message to him that if he honors his commitments to resist terror and to fully disclose and disarm his weapons programs, we will begin a process of normalization, which we have done.

"We have begun that process. And now we will make sure he honors his commitment," the president added.

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