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  1. dub
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    US denied access to Saudi man
    From correspondents in New York
    September 8, 2003

    SAUDIS have denied US officials access to several suspects in their custody, including a Saudi man alleged to have knowledge of a plot to spread poison gas in the New York City subway, Time magazine reported.

    "Some critics of Saudi Arabia are suggesting that the US invaded the wrong country and seized the wrong oil wells in the spring," according to a special report marking the two-year anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, which is due to hit newsstands tomorrow.

    US officials want to talk to the Saudi suspect to see how far the plot advanced and whether he had associates in the United States, the magazine reported. The Saudis have provided no detailed information about him, according to Time.

    "From (Vice-President Dick) Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and, significantly, his father, President George W Bush is hearing a singular line from his most important foreign policy advisers: that he must engage with the Saudis, work with them to bring about change and not alienate them," the magazine says.

    "Indeed, when President Bush spoke to (Crown Prince) Abdullah for 20 minutes by phone last week, say US and Saudi sources, he went out of his way to compliment the Prince on Saudi Arabia's efforts to combat terrorism."


    US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told the magazine in an interview he will end his diplomatic career next month to return to his family in Texas.

    "The danger (on the Islamic extremist threat to Saudi Arabia following the May 12 terrorist attacks in Riyadh) is probably much greater than we would have assumed it to be a year ago," Jordan told Time.

    "When you find safe houses with tons of explosives and automatic weapons, you do ask yourself, 'Is this the tip of the iceberg or have they (the Saudis) now flushed out most of what is there?' I think they are dealing with it in a professional and methodical way."

    Jordan, asked about changes in Saudi Arabia after September 11, said: "The scrutiny that they have undergone has caused them to realise more vividly that they are part of the world, that they can't be isolated. The reality of 15 of the 19 hijackers being Saudis is a traumatic thing for the society and government to accept. I think that they have now accepted it. They are beginning to realise that they need to focus on what fosters intolerance."

    On reforms, Jordan said: "They have moved forward in a much more aggressive way toward a reform agenda, primarily economic reform. Crown Prince Abdullah has made it very clear that he is very anxious to become a member of the World Trade Organisation.

    "There is still a question whether some of the Crown Prince's statements advocating reform are really going to become reality. Or whether the inertia of a conservative society that relies on consensus allows that slowest-moving elements to stop or delay progress."

    Nearly three-in-four Americans (72 per cent) do not trust Saudi Arabia as an ally of the United States, according to a new CNN/TIME Poll released today.

    Agence France-Presse

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