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Saudi Arabia could sell off billions in US assets if bill passes -NYT

[WASHINGTON] The Saudi Arabian government has threatened to sell of hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of American assets should the United States Congress pass a bill that could hold the kingdom responsible for any role in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported that Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told US lawmakers last month that "Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to US$750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the US before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts."

The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, would take away immunity from foreign governments in cases "arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil."

The New York Times, citing administration officials and congressional aides, said "the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon." It added that the Obama administration had lobbied Congress to block the passage of the bill.

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The State Department said it stood "firmly with the victims of these acts of violence and their loved ones." "We remain committed to bringing to justice terrorists and those who use terrorism to advance their depraved ideology," said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

In September a US judge dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the attacks, saying that the kingdom had sovereign immunity from damage claims by the families and from insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses.