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US says terror suspect admitted anti-Bush plot

Assassination idea was not pursued

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A suspected terrorist accused of conspiring to assassinate President Bush said that he proposed the plot but that it wasn't pursued, and that he was frustrated that other members of his Al Qaeda cell lacked initiative, according to prosecutors.

A government motion unsealed this week by a federal judge reveals new details in the case against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, who is scheduled to go on trial next month.

Prosecutors say that the Falls Church resident has admitted joining Al Qaeda while attending college in Saudi Arabia and that he discussed terrorist plots, including plans to assassinate Bush and hijack airplanes. Abu Ali says that he was tortured into giving a false confession by Saudi authorities and that US officials aided the torture. His lawyers asked to have the confession tossed out.

The motion says that Abu Ali was asked to research the location of US nuclear power sites for possible attack. The request was made by the second-highest ranking Al Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia, Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani, according to the motion.

Also, Assistant US Attorney David Laufman writes in the motion that Abu Ali was frustrated and bored during a stay at an Al Qaeda safe house ''because his fellow Al Qaeda cell members did not appear sufficiently motivated to suit the defendant's terrorist zeal."

In an initial interrogation by Saudi authorities, Abu Ali said that after a May 2003 Al Qaeda attack in Riyadh he organized the cell into a more structured daily regimen at the safe house ''because, as I said to the guys, we were wasting our time sleeping and engaging in idle chitchat."

Prosecutors said Abu Ali's admission that he proposed the Bush assassination plot was made in response to a question posed by Saudi authorities.

When Abu Ali was asked, ''Were you tasked to assassinate the president?" he replied, ''I came up with the idea on my own, but it did not get beyond the idea stage. I wanted to be the brain, the planner, just like [reputed Sept. 11 attack masterminds] Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad."

The government motion was in response to defense contentions that the case against Abu Ali should be thrown out because the confession was obtained through torture and that US authorities acted in concert with the Saudis.

The government denies that Abu Ali was mistreated.

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