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Consumer Reports

Powell does Saudi damage control | (UPI) MEXICO CITY Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday did a little damage control on behalf of the Saudi kingdom following meetings in Mexico City, calling Riyadh a "strategic partner" in the war on terrorism and a "friend" of the United States.

"I believe that the government of Saudi Arabia has the same commitments as the United States government and the government of Mexico to eliminate the scourge of terrorism wherever it is found," Powell said. "We should not go to the point where we rupture relations with a country that has been a good friend to the United States for many, many years and is a strategic partner."

The remarks came after a slew of news stories appeared in the last four days calling into question the Saudi commitment to end financial links to known terrorist groups, including Osama bin-Laden's al Qaida. Newsweek magazine over the weekend ran a story claiming that several cashiers checks sent by Saudi Princess Haifa (wife of Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar) to a Saudi woman in San Diego were endorsed to the wife of Omar al Bayoumi, a man who guaranteed the lease of -- and paid two months rent for -- an apartment occupied by Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almindhar, two of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran a piece claiming the administration was considering sending the Saudis a 90-day ultimatum to induce cooperation in freezing terrorist assets and those of institutions that funnel money to terror groups.

Powell however said there was no substance to the story. "There is no substance to those reports. I have no knowledge of any such study which resulted in conclusions that we should issue these sorts of ultimatums or take unilateral action."

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