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Pentagon Blasts Saudi Arabia Report

The Defense Department distanced itself Tuesday from a defense think tank recommendation that the United States "target" Saudi oil fields and financial assets if the Arab nation doesn't do more to fight terrorism.

The suggestion was made in a briefing to the Defense Policy Board, a group of intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon. The government-funded briefing was produced by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corp. analyst and former adviser to the French Defense Ministry.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the presentation does not "reflect the official view of the Defense Department."

"Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and ally of the United States," the statement said. "The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism and have the department's and administration's deep appreciation."

But the briefing represents the opposite view of Saudi cooperation — one that is increasingly being embraced on the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, among Pentagon civilian leadership and elsewhere in the Bush administration, The Washington Post reported in Tuesday editions.

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," the newspaper quoted the briefing as saying.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudi, officials have said. And though the Pentagon has declined to identify the 598 terror suspects jailed at its military prison in Cuba, other sources estimate 100 of them are Saudi, the largest, or one of the largest groups.

"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," the briefing said, describing Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East.

If Saudis refused to comply, the briefing continued, Saudi oil fields and overseas financial assets should be "targeted," although exactly how was not specified.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, told the newspaper he did not take the briefing seriously. "I think that it is a misguided effort that is shallow, and not honest about the facts," he said. "Repeating lies will never make them facts."

The Post said members of the Defense Policy Board include former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretaries James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, former House speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas Foley; and several retired senior military officers.