The US president expressed "deep sympathy" for the victims’ families, but reiterated his opposition to a law that is "detrimental to US national interests." Riyadh threatens to break off economic agreements with Washington. Law sponsors pledge to overturn the veto with a two-thirds vote in Congress. Hillary Clinton is in favour of the law.
Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Barack Obama has vetoed a controversial law passed by the US Congress, which allows relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the countries suspected of having supported the attacks, including Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally in the Middle East.
In a statement, the White House said that US President Barack Obama expressed "deep sympathy" for the families of some 3,000 people killed in the attacks; however, he did not agree with the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act because it would be "detrimental to US national interests."
Saudi Arabia is an old US ally. Out of 19 bombers who carried out the September 11 attacks in the US, 15 came from the Wahhabi kingdom. However, no evidence has come to light tying Saudi leaders to the attacks.
The law, which was approved by the House and Senate, was criticised by Gulf monarchies because it “contradicts the foundations and principles of relations between States", in particular, it undermines "judicial immunity".
Obama has always been opposed to it because it could make the United States liable for legal actions by foreign governments.
Moreover, the law threatens to undermine even more the already delicate relations with Riyadh, which has strongly criticised the US Administration's decision to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s historic enemy.
In recent weeks, the Saudi Foreign Ministry has threatened to pull Saudi investment and cancel US-Saudi trade deals. Saudi Arabia has assets worth $ 750 billion in the US.
Meanwhile, the Act backers, many of whom are Democrats like the president, are unhappy with the president and disapprove of his choice.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who co-sponsored the bill, said he was "disappointed" and would press ahead to overrule President Obama's veto.
"If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation. If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable," Mr Schumer said.
Obama's veto can be overruled by a two-third majority in both houses.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton too has parted ways from Obama over his veto. Shortly after Obama announced his intention, Ms Clinton said that if she was elected she would sign the bill.