updated 12/22/2004 9:48:28 AM ET 2004-12-22T14:48:28

Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it was withdrawing its ambassador to Libya in what the kingdom called a measured response to reports Tripoli had plotted to assassinate its crown prince.

The alleged plot against Crown Prince Abdullah was first outlined by U.S. investigators in their case against a prominent American Muslim activist who was sentenced earlier this year to the maximum 23 years in prison for illegal business dealings with Libya.

At a news conference, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud, said the Libyans would be sent a communique later Wednesday demanding that their envoy in Riyadh go home. The Saudi Embassy in Tripoli would remain open, and the Libyan Embassy in Riyadh would be allowed to remain open, Prince Saud said. He said the Saudis did not want the Libyan people to suffer, particularly with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia scheduled to start next month.

"The Saudi government asserts that it has limited its action to only these measures, ... despite the ugliness of what happened, in appreciation for the brotherly Libyan people," Saud said.

It was unclear whether the Saudi envoy had already left Tripoli.

The Saudi move came months after the assassination plot was first reported.

Alleged plot against Abdullah
In July, Abdurahman Alamoudi pleaded guilty before a U.S. judge to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from high-ranking Libyan officials while serving as a go-between for them and Saudi dissidents. Americans were banned from doing business with Libya at the time of the contacts.

While Alamoudi was not charged in connection with the alleged plot against Abdullah, prosecutors cited the plot in requesting Alamoudi receive the maximum sentence, which he did in October.

According to a 20-page "statement of facts" filed by U.S. prosecutors, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi wanted Abdullah killed after a March 2003 Arab League Summit during which the two exchanged sharp insults.

Within two weeks of the summit, Alamoudi, who had in the past frequently traveled illegally to meet Libyan government officials, was summoned to a meeting in Tripoli and told Gadhafi wanted to punish Saudi leaders. The unidentified Libyan officials wanted Alamoudi to introduce them to Saudi dissidents who could create "headaches" for the Saudi regime, authorities said.

Alamoudi was not initially told the ultimate plan was to assassinate Abdullah, learning of it only several months later from an unidentified "high-ranking Libyan government official," the court papers said.

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