U.S. invited terror suspect to dinner


The U.S. government has withdrawn a dinner invitation to Soliman al-Buthi, the former director of an Islamic charity in Oregon that authorities say helped fund al-Qaida.

A U.S. embassy political officer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, invited al-Buthi to a dinner Saturday honoring the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

Tom Nelson, al-Buthi's Portland attorney, said his client probably got the invite because of his actions during the controversy over the Danish publication of a cartoon that offended Muslims. Al-Buthi, speaking for a new Islamic organization, appealed for calm as Western embassies were besieged by protesters.

In 2004, al-Buthi, 45, was designated a terrorist for his role in operating the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in the southern Oregon city of Ashland. The Ashland chapter of the charity was closed after al-Buthi and chapter founder Pete Seda were indicted on federal tax charges in 2005. Al-Buthi has denied any connection to terrorism.

Nelson said al-Buthi planned to attend the dinner but the lawyer advised him not to enter embassy grounds, which would make him subject to arrest. Otherwise, he was safe because the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.

In an e-mail to The Oregonian, al-Buthi said: "I was surprised, particularly because I am supposed to be a fugitive from the U.S. government!"

The embassy withdrew the invitation after The Oregonian questioned federal authorities in Washington about the matter.

"Al-Buthi was sent an invitation by mistake. The invitation has been withdrawn," Dave Foley, spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

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