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Obama Vetoes Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims' Families To Sue Saudi Arabia

U.S. President Barack Obama addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20.

U.S. President Barack Obama has vetoed a bill that would allow families of victims of the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, saying it would damage U.S. national security.

Obama's veto on September 23 sets up a potential showdown with Congress, where lawmakers in both houses passed the bill and could seek to override Obama's decision.

While expressing "deep sympathy" those who lost family members in the attacks, Obama said the bill would "upset longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity" and would be "detrimental to U.S. national interests."

He said in a statement that it could result in U.S. officials facing lawsuits for the actions of foreign recipients of American military equipment and aid, and would damage U.S. cooperation with foreign governments on counterterrorism and other matters.

Of the 19 men who carried out the attacks, 15 were Saudi nationals, and U.S. intelligence suspected potential links between the attackers and the Saudi government, according to declassified documents.

The Saudi government has denied that it had any ties to those who carried out the attacks, which together killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), a co-sponsor of the bill, said he would push to override Obama's veto.

"This is a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress," Schumer said on September 23.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP