updated 7/26/2004 4:28:06 PM ET 2004-07-26T20:28:06

Last month, an attack on contractors at the Saudi oil facility in Yanbu killed six Westerners, two of them Americans.  Senior Saudi officials told the world al-Qaida terrorists were to blame and al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

But tape obtained by NBC News reveals that, inside Saudi Arabia, on Saudi television, Crown Prince Abdullah told a strikingly different story about who was to blame.

NBC News translated Abdullah's remarks from Arabic: “Zionism is behind it.  It has become clear now.  It has become clear to us.  I don’t say, I mean...  It is not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened.”

Other senior Saudi officials reaffirmed the claim that supporters of Israel — Zionists — were behind the terror attacks.

Prince Nayef, the Saudi Interior Minister said, “Al-Qaida is backed by Israel and Zionism.”

Some call this dangerous Saudi doubletalk.  “The crown prince’s statements are inflammatory and irresponsible,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “On the one hand they say reassuring words to American leaders, but on the other hand they spout inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric for their domestic population.”

Monday, a report by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations said such statements undermine efforts to “change the mindset that foments extremism” and undercut otherwise “significant improvement” in Saudi efforts against al-Qaida.

For example, in the last year, the Saudis have waged sometimes daily gun battles against al-Qaida cells, passed new anti-terror financing laws and cracked down on charities helping fund bin Laden.

But the report complains that members of the Saudi elite who’ve allegedly financed al Qaida remain free and unpunished, including Yassin al Qadi — specially designated as a “global terrorist” by the U.S. Treasury Department.

According to William Wechsler, former National Security Council member and co-author of the Council on Foreign Relations report, “They have yet to arrest or incarcerate anybody publicly. And if you don’t take those actions then you can’t have deterrence.”

Qadi has repeatedly denied giving money to al-Qaida.

A Saudi spokesman claims that five men have been prosecuted for funding terrorism — they just weren’t publicly named.

As for the alleged Saudi doublespeak, a Saudi official in the United States defends the remarks, arguing that Zionists and others who argue for regime change in Saudi Arabia “share the same objective as Osama bin Laden.”


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