08/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Saudis Pressured Tony Blair Into Shutting Down Bribery Probe

The United Kingdom's highest court today provided new details of how the Saudis pressured British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to shut down a politically embarrassing bribery investigation two years ago that implicated the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The ruling, by a House of Lords judicial panel, offers an unusually revealing window into how international power politics is played in the post-9/11 era.

The five-member panel recounts how Blair, faced with Saudi threats to cut off cooperation on counterterrorism operations, personally intervened to scuttle a criminal investigation into billions of dollars in allegedly improper payments made by British Aerospace Systems (BAE) to obtain Saudi contracts.

But the former prime minister, the court found, acted out of good faith: he and his advisers were genuinely worried that, if the Saudis followed through on their threats, it could lead to another "7/7"--British shorthand for the devastating July 7, 2005, terrorist bombings in the London subway system that killed 52 commuters and injured 700.

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