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Mon, Dec 29, 2003

Saudis Deny Dive-Bomb Story

BA: We Wouldn't Fly If It Wasn't Safe

Saudi Arabia's official news agency Monday denied remarks from a British member of Parliament, who said Sunday that Saudi intelligence agents had foiled a plot involving general aviation aircraft.

Patrick Mercer (right), the opposition spokesman for British Homeland Security, told the Sunday Globe and Mail that Saudi authorities had arrested several terror suspects -- among them, two men who were planning to use general aviation aircraft packed with explosives to dive-bomb a British Airways 777 at King Khalid Airport in Riyadh.

“My understanding is that they were found on the flight line and that the plan was to fly them into a passenger jet, either about to land or take off,” said Mercer, quoted in the Mail.

Mercer said the Saudis were trying to cover up the incident, but cited "unimpeachable sources" in his account. Indeed, the official Saudi news agency said Monday, “A Saudi security official said that a report by The Mail on Sunday quoting a British politician as saying that Saudi authorities arrested two suicide pilots who were planning to fly two small planes into a packed British Airways plane is not true.”

“It is unfortunate that some foreign newspapers have taken to publishing such baseless reports, with the aim of sensationalizing them and showing no sense of the responsibility of the media,” the Saudi official said.

British Airways initially refused comment on the story, citing security concerns. Later, the airline said though a spokesman, “We are in regular contact with the Saudi authorities and the British government and we wouldn’t fly unless it was completely safe to do so. We haven’t changed our flights to or from Saudi Arabia.”

FMI: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism/index.html

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