U.S. Sept. 11 law weakens international relations, Saudi cabinet says

October 3, 2016 10:16 AM EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said on Monday that a U.S. law allowing citizens to sue the kingdom over the Sept. 11 2001 attacks represented a threat to international relations and urged Congress to act to prevent any dangerous consequences from the new legislation.

The cabinet, at its weekly meeting in the capital Riyadh, also said that the law, known as JASTA, represented a violation of a leading principle preventing lawsuits against governments that regulated international relations for hundreds of years.

"Weakening this sovereign immunity will affect all countries, including the United States," the statement by Saudi Information Minister Adel al-Toraifi, carried by Saudi state news agency SPA, said.

"(The cabinet) expressed hope that wisdom will prevail and that the U.S. Congress would take the necessary steps to avoid the bad and dangerous consequences that may result from the JASTA legislation," it added.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last Wednesday to approve legislation that will allow the families of those killed in the 2001 attacks on the United States to seek damages from the Saudi government.

Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Riyadh has always dismissed suspicions that it backed the attackers, who killed nearly 3,000 people under the banner of Islamist militant group al-Qaeda.

Riyadh is one of Washington's longest-standing and most important allies in the Middle East and part of a U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The Saudi government lobbied strongly against JASTA, which stands for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, in the run-up to the vote, and warned it would undermine the principle of sovereign immunity.

But Saudi officials stopped short of threatening any specific retaliation if the law was passed.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by William Maclean/Jeremy Gaint)

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