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Accused saudi denied link { August 5 2003 }

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I wasn't part of hijacking plot: accused Saudi
August 5 2003

Saudi citizen Omar al-Bayoumi has denied he was linked to the September 11 attacks and said he was ready to meet United States investigators again, provided it was done in Saudi Arabia with Saudi officials present.

The US Attorney-General, John Ashcroft, told ABC television on Sunday that US authorities planned to interview Mr al-Bayoumi again over two of the September 11 suicide plane hijackers, whom US officials say he knew while living in the US.

In his first interview since his name was raised in a US congressional report that questioned Saudi Arabia's commitment to the so-called war on terrorism, Mr al-Bayoumi told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television on Sunday that he had done nothing wrong.

"I am ready to sit with American investigators, whether from the FBI or CIA, in the presence of Saudi investigators and on Saudi land," he said. He had written to the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef, telling him he was ready for questioning.

In his interview, Mr al-Bayoumi said claims in the report that he helped the two hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, shortly after they arrived in the US were "pure fabrication".

The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, responded angrily last week to the report, saying it wrongly accused the kingdom of complicity in the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. But US officials were welcome to talk again to Mr al-Bayoumi, he said.

Mr al-Bayoumi said that after the attacks he was questioned in Britain for seven days in the presence of US officials. He said officials searched his computers and personal files and took samples of his saliva for DNA testing, but released him when no evidence was found linking him to the hijacking plot.

"They told me I was innocent of any link whatsoever," he said.

Mr Ashcroft said officials wanted to question Mr al-Bayoumi again in light of new information, but did not elaborate.

The congressional report, some parts of which Washington is keeping classified on the grounds that it could compromise intelligence, says Mr al-Bayoumi gave the hijackers "considerable assistance" when they moved to San Diego.

The hijackers stayed at his flat for several days and he co-signed their lease and paid their first month's rent and security deposit, it said. Mr al-Bayoumi's employer was the Saudi Civil Aviation authority.

Reuters, Associated Press

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