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SLUG: 2-285412 Bush / Saudi Arabia (L Update)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=JANUARY 18, 2002

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

NUMBER=2-285412

TITLE=BUSH / SAUDI ARABIA UPDATE (L)

BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS

DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE

CONTENT:

/// UPDATES EARLIER BY ADDING FLEISCHER ACT ///

INTRO: The Bush Administration says it has had no talks with Saudi Arabia about withdrawing U-S troops there. V-O-A's Scott Stearns reports, the administration was responding to a U-S newspaper report saying Saudi leaders want U-S troops to leave because their presence has become a political liability.

TEXT: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the U-S -Saudi alliance is as strong as it has ever been. He says the U-S military presence in Saudi Arabia provides what he calls "a stabilizing effect in a dangerous region."

Mr. Fleischer was responding to a report in the Friday Washington Post quoting unnamed Saudi officials as saying the United States has "overstayed its welcome." The article says the presence of American jets and some five-thousand troops has become a liability for the kingdom's leaders in both the Arab world and domestic politics.

U-S troops went to Saudi Arabia in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War. They have remained without a formal agreement between the two governments.

Mr. Fleischer said the current military arrangement between the countries is "working well." He dismissed the Washington Post report, saying the president spoke with the Saudi crown prince this week, thanking him for "strong" support in the war against terrorism.

/// FLEISCHER ACT ///

The President is very pleased with the actions the Saudis have taken. As to the story specifically, of course the story quoted unnamed, anonymous Saudi officials, and so I can't comment on anything if people don't but their name on it. But I am not aware of any contacts that anybody named "anonymous" has had with the United States government, let alone anybody who has a Saudi name with the United States government suggesting that it is time for the United States to leave.

/// END ACT ///

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee says it may be a good idea for the U-S to leave Saudi Arabia. Democratic Senator Carl Levin wants the Pentagon to review its military relationship with the Saudi kingdom, saying the environment for U-S troops there is "less than hospitable."

The highest-ranking female fighter pilot in the U-S Air Force is suing the Pentagon for ordering her to wear a traditional Muslim headscarf when traveling on official business in Saudi Arabia. Defense officials say it is necessary so as not to offend local sensibilities in a country where Saudi women are veiled head to toe.

There is also concern among some Senate Democrats that Saudi officials have not cooperated fully in the effort to fight terrorism. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11th were Saudi nationals. Some U-S officials say the Saudi government has not cooperated fully with the investigation into a 1996 terrorist bombing of U-S military barracks which killed 19 American airmen. (SIGNED)

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