Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and US Congress that it may sell off billions of dollars' worth of American assets held by the kingdom if lawmakers clear a bill that would permit the Saudi government to be held accountable in US courts for any role in the September 11, 2001, attacks, a ‘New York Times’ report has said.
US Government has urged Congress to block the bill's passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi warnings have been the subject of discussions recently between lawmakers and officials from the state department and the Pentagon.
Officials have cautioned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the bill.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, told lawmakers last month that Saudi Arabia would have to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the US before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.
Many economists fear that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to implement and would end up crippling the kingdom's economy. But warning is another signal of the mounting tensions between Saudi Arabia and the US.
Administration has been lobbying so raptly against the bill that some lawmakers and families of 9/11 victims are furious. In their opinion, the Obama administration has constantly sided with the kingdom and has upset their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.
"It's stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens," Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on September 11, was quoted as saying by the paper.
US President Barack Obama will be in Riyadh in couple of days for meetings with King Salman and other officials. It is not clear if dispute over the 9/11 bill will be on the agenda for discussions.