Saudis find 2 tons of bomb making equipment and Al Qaeda base outside capital 'only hours' after US announces travel warning
New Saudi ambassador former spy chief who met with Bin Laden and Taliban - Prince Bandar resigns citing 'personal reasons'
MIM :Saudi counter terrorism efforts were on display today when the Saudi's suddenly uncovered an Al Qaeda base,arsenal and 2 tons of bomb making equipment outside the capital only a few hours after the US issued a travel warning for Americans to avoid Saudi Arabia.
Which begs the question as to if they managed to uncover this Al Qaeda headquarters with some help from the Americans who announced the travel ban to coerce them into stopping it's operation.
Even more indictive of the Saudi committment to fight terror is the announcement that the terror linked Prince Bandar is resigning his post as ambassador and will be replaced by the former Saudi spy chief Al Turki who met with Bin Laden several times and moderated in talks with the Taliban.
Saudi envoy resigns US post
The ambassador to London, Prince Turki al-Faisal, will replace Prince Bandar after two decades in the high-profile job during which he enjoyed enviable access to the White House and successive US presidents. Prince Turki, 60, resigned as chief of the kingdom's foreign intelligence service a month before 9/11. He was named in a lawsuit filed by relatives of the victims but a US judge later ruled he had immunity.
The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, described Prince Bandar as a close and steadfast friend of the US and a "tireless advocate for close ties, warm relations, and mutual understanding".
The diplomatic shuffle came as the US issued its latest warning against travel to Saudi Arabia, saying militants were planning a new attack. The US embassy in Riyadh said there were no specifics on timing or targets.
Hours after the warning, the Saudi interior ministry said security forces had uncovered a cache of more than two tonnes of bomb-making equipment 50 miles south-east of the capital.
The arsenal included fertiliser, ammonium nitrate, aluminium powder, potassium nitrate and other chemicals used by suspected al-Qaida militants to make bombs deployed in attacks on western housing compounds and security forces buildings.
Security forces who searched the hideout on Tuesday also found pipebombs, acid and electrical equipment.
Militants have killed 91 foreign nationals and Saudi civilians in the past two years and caused more than £140m worth of damage, Saudi officials say.
Former Saudi Spy Chief to Replace Envoy Close to Bush Family
July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, said it plans to appoint former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal as ambassador to the U.S., the kingdom's first change in the post since Ronald Reagan was president.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry announced today that Prince Bandar bin Sultan resigned as Saudi envoy to Washington for "private reasons" after rendering "outstanding services" to the Arab country since 1983. Bandar cultivated deep access to the White House, including regular visits to the Bush family homes.
Bandar, who is close to President George Bush, the current president's father, is a former Saudi Air Force officer who became defense attaché, then ambassador, following his involvement in procuring U.S. fighter aircraft in the late 1970s, according to his official embassy biography. He later became the dean of the diplomatic corps in Washington.
Turki, who is ambassador to the U.K., was educated in Washington and has a history of working with the U.S. intelligence community. He will come to the U.S. as the Bush administration attempts to spread democracy in the oil-rich Middle East as a counter-weight to violent Islamist movements.
Ned Walker, president of the Middle East Institute in Washington and a former U.S. diplomat, said in an interview that Bandar was a symbol of "the close, warm, fuzzy ties with the administration. Turki is not that person and will not have that relationship."
Turki, 60, met several times with Osama bin Laden in the context of Saudi support for Muslim fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He later mediated between the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Saudi government.
President George W. Bush issued a statement through his press secretary today that thanked Bandar, 56, for his tenure. "In troubled times U.S. presidents past and present have relied upon Bandar's advice," the statement said. "In good times, they have enjoyed his wit, charm and humor."
While Turki may face questions in Washington about his contacts with militant figures including bin Laden, the fundamental economic issues on the U.S.-Saudi agenda ensure that the change in chief diplomat may have little direct impact on the relationship.
"Our interests drive us together," Walker said. "They have no interest in seeing oil pricing going out of the roof. We don't have any interest in alienating the one country that can keep the price under control."
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, during an April visit to President Bush's Crawford ranch, offered the U.S. no immediate steps to relieve high gasoline prices, pitching instead a months- old plan to boost oil production capacity by 1.5 million barrels a day by the end of the decade.