WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is convinced that Saudi Arabia is newly committed to financially starving terrorists, Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) said Sunday.
"Over the course of the last year, Saudi Arabia has taken a number of really important steps," Snow said. "I am convinced they're deeply committed and sincere about this effort."
He said the Saudis are working with U.S. experts "to make sure Saudi Arabia is not a source of terrorist money, that Saudi Arabia takes all the steps they can to close off those flows."
Snow's comments appeared to be somewhat at odds with those of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), who praised Saudi Arabia for cracking down on Muslim militants but said the kingdom can do more to stop the flow of charitable money to terror groups.
"I do think that even greater pressure can be put on Saudi and Saudi officials to go after the financing mechanisms, the support of charities both there and around the world that may be funding some terrorist activity," Frist, R-Tenn., said on "Fox News Sunday."
Snow said during a televised interview that the Saudis need to continue adding muscle to their enforcement of laws barring the financing of terror.
At the same time, he said, "We have a team over at Riyadh of enforcement people, working with their enforcement people, to try and penetrate any networks that are over there that could be the source of these flows."
"I'd say they're very serious and committed to trying to wipe out the flow of terrorist moneys and moneys going to Al Qaeda," the terror network headed by Usama bin Laden, whose Saudi citizenship the kingdom's government revoked in the 1990s.
The Saudi government said this month it was creating a commission to screen contributions raised inside the country to support causes abroad. Officials said the Saudi government was dissolving a large Riyadh-based Muslim charity along with other charities and folding the organization's financial assets into the new Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.
The United States has tried to cut off terrorist organizations' sources of finance since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Snow praised the new Saudi charities alignment. "I must say, they've gone so far as to change the whole way their charities operate, so the cash transactions through charities can't flow to terrorist groups," he said.
Frist said he was pleased by the Saudi efforts to go after Islamic militants suspected to be responsible for the kidnapping and killing of Paul M. Johnson Jr. (search), an American who was working in the kingdom.
Abid al-Aziz al-Muqran (search), head of the Saudi operations of Al Qaeda, was killed in a shootout Saturday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, with security forces a few hours after the terror group posted photographs on an Internet site of Johnson's beheading.
"I think in the response that we saw two days ago and yesterday, we see a new aggressiveness," Frist said.
"We see a new offensive against the fundamental Islamics that, in some ways, may have been defended in the past. So I think it's a new world. I think we're getting good cooperation at this juncture, and we're going to need even better cooperation as we go forward."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said only recently has the Saudi government moved aggressively against terrorists.
"I think the two biggest exports of Saudi Arabia have been oil and terrorism, and that one of the ways in which they supported terrorism was by their support for the schools in which hatred was taught of the West, the so-called madrassas," Levin told a news network.
"Now, I think they finally have been hit at home, so they realize that what they have helped to unleash in the world is coming back to bite them as well. And so I'm hopeful that they'll take stronger action now," Levin said.
"But until now, I don't see that they have taken strong actions in many areas. And that's part of the problem that we've had."
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said that unless Saudi Arabia better protects Americans and other foreigners working in the kingdom, "they're in deep trouble with regard to the oil business."