Did Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, even as he was renouncing terrorism to win the favor of the Bush Administration, really order a hit on Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud? Or are the Saudis pushing trumped-up charges? Libyan officials deny the accusations, Saudi sources stand by them, and U.S. officials--while saying "the Saudis are hyping" the story--aren't quite sure what to think.
The explosive allegations are based in part on the testimony of Abdurahman Alamoudi, an American Muslim leader arrested last fall at Dulles airport, who claimed he was told by Gaddafi last June that he wanted the prince dead. (Alamoudi's lawyer will say only that his client is "cooperating fully.") The alleged plot followed a public rebuke at an Arab summit last year, when Abdullah said to Gaddafi, "You are a liar, and your grave awaits you."
The clashing charges are the latest example of the two countries' long grudge match. In his radical heyday, Gaddafi railed against the pro-U.S. Saudi monarchy, and Libyan officials claim that the Saudis are funding Libyan opposition groups. A Libyan source close to Gaddafi says, "Those groups tried to kill the leader twice," and adds that Mohamed Ismael, a Libyan in Saudi custody as a suspect in the alleged plot against Abdullah, was merely financing Saudi reformers. The source says the accusations are part of a Saudi smear campaign against Saudi dissidents. For their part, fumes a well-placed Saudi source, "we are fed up with these people. It is better for us to be rid of this regime." Whatever the truth of the allegations against Gaddafi, the feeling seems to be mutual.
--By Timothy J. Burger and Scott MacLeod