Inside Report: Saudis vs. Brits

Posted: Oct 06, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Saudi Arabia has sought President Bush's help in asking Britain for the return of alleged terrorist Mohammed Masari, a foe of the Saudi royal regime who has congratulated the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attack on America. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to Washington, asked Bush for help in seeking Masari from the British. The president, in turn, discreetly broached the subject to Prime Minister Tony Blair during his recent visit to Washington. According to diplomatic sources, Blair responded that British law prevented him from granting the Saudi request but added that he was trying to resolve the problem. A British government attempt to deport Masari failed in 1996. No country has more fully subscribed to Bush's war against terrorism than Britain, while Saudi Arabia has been accused of a half-hearted effort. FEDERALIZING AIRPORTS The weekly meeting of Republican whips last Wednesday erupted in opposition to the Democratic plans for hiring 30,000 federal workers to handle anti-terrorist security at American airports. Leading the opposition of the whips were Reps. J.D. Hayworth and John Shadegg of Arizona, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Sonny Callahan of Alabama. They contended that federal certification of airport security workers would be adequate and that Democrats are pressing for 30,000 new government union workers to buttress a basic element of their party's strength. President Bush has indicated to House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt that he could accept the federalized workers as part of the airport security bill. The grumbling extends to the top levels of the House Republican leadership. EDUCATORS FOR SECURITY With one industry after another following the airlines in quest of federal bailouts, the school lobby is the latest group to try to take advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks by tapping the federal treasury for more money. The AFL-CIO and other organizations are demanding an additional $1.6 billion for school repairs. A liberal pressure called the Committee for Education Funding has sent a letter to Congress contending that more school money "will be crucial for strengthening our national security." A footnote: In private conversations, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney tongue-lashed Democratic leaders for not providing sufficient help to workers who have lost their jobs because of post-Sept. 11 economic complications. He complained that corporate America is being taken care of after the terrorist attack but not the workers. ETHANOL AND ENERGY Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is being pressed to permit Senate consideration of President Bush's energy bill if he wants ethanol subsidies to help Midwestern Democratic senators seeking re-election. More aid to produce ethanol, a derivative of corn, can help Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin and Tim Johnson, who face spirited Republican challenges in 2002 in Iowa and South Dakota, respectively. But Republicans are insisting that ethanol be twinned with the Bush energy program, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Support for a vote on energy legislation is also coming from Democratic Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia, Tom Carper of Delaware and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. SHOWDOWN IN MONTANA Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, may after all face a re-election struggle next year in Montana against the strongest possible Republican challenger: former Gov. Marc Racicot. All year long, Racicot has resisted entreaties from his good friend President Bush to run for the Senate. After many years in politics, he insisted that he must provide for his family and is now working in a big-time Washington law firm. However, Republicans in Montana are pressing him, and Racicot could succumb early next year and decide to run. Baucus goes to the top of the Democratic worry list, if Racicot becomes a candidate. After pressure from Bush, Rep. John Thune agreed to run for the Senate in South Dakota instead of becoming a candidate for governor as he originally planned. Republican takeovers in Montana and South Dakota could change control of the Senate.