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Saudi Arabia Offers US Support - 2001-09-18


Saudi Arabia says it will support the United States in its efforts to set up a coalition to fight terrorism. But other countries in the Middle East, notably Iran and Syria, have expressed reservations about joining any military attacks.

The custodian of the Islamic world's holiest sites, Saudi Arabia, says it will stand with the United States in its campaign against Osama bin Laden, named by U.S. officials as a prime suspect in last week's attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr. Bin Laden is a Saudi dissident who is believed to be in Afghanistan and being sheltered by its ruling Taleban government. Several Saudi nationals have also been named as the suspected hijackers of planes used in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia's King Fahd told his cabinet that the kingdom is prepared to cooperate with the United States to combat terrorism in all its forms. The country's religious authorities have also backed the king's stance.

The head of Saudi Arabia's Muslim community, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Shaikh, says Muslims must reject such terrorist acts in order to avoid the wrath of Allah.

Saudi Arabia is one of three countries that recognizes the Taleban as Afghanistan's legitimate rulers.

But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has told his nation that punishing Afghanistan might cause a human catastrophe and could create more problems for the United States. Although Iran is openly hostile to the Taleban government, it is bowing out of any potential U.S.-led international coalition to confront terrorism.

Ayatollah Khamenei argues that the actions of a few Muslims do not provide the authorization to repress other Muslims with an attack on Afghanistan.

Syria as well says there must be United Nations backing before it will join any strategy to strike at terrorist networks.

The United Arab Emirates, which like Saudi Arabia is a U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, also recognizes the Taleban government. President Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan is calling on the United States to be patient and certain of the evidence so that any response against terrorism will have international legitimacy.

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