White House spokesman Scott McClellan said US officials had talked to their Saudi Arabian counterparts about naming the Saudis identified in the report, according to CNN.

McClellan added the Saudis had co-operated with the US in its ‘war on terror’ and investigations into the 2001 attacks.

The admission appears to confirm intense public speculation in the US that the administration of President George Bush withheld 28 pages of the 800-plus-page report to hide possible links between those who carried out the attacks and Saudi officials.

Saudi Arabia has strenuously denied any complicity in the 2001 attacks, pointing out that the group blamed for the attacks, al-Qaida, is an avowed enemy of the Saudi monarchy.

Press names suspected spies

Earlier on Saturday, the New York Times quoted unnamed US officials who had read the report as saying the classified pages drew links between two of the hijackers and a pair of Saudi citizens suspected of being intelligence agents for their government. But the suspicions were based on circumstancial evidence, it said.

The officials said the two Saudi citizens, Omar al-Bayoumi and Usama Bassnan, appeared to enjoy complex financial relationships with government officials. The report stated the FBI had reason to suspect that al-Bayoumi in particular was spying for the Saudi government.

On Tuesday, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al Faisal, urged President Bush to publish the 28 classified pages so that the Saudi government could defend itself. President Bush refused his request citing national security considerations.

Allegations of links between the hijackers and Saudi officials have been sharply criticized by Riyadh. The Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, last week criticised suggestions that al-Bayoumi was a spy.

“It is unfortunate that reports keep circulating in the media describing him as an agent of the Saudi government with attribution only to anonymous officials. This is blatantly false,” he said.