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US Seeks Larger Saudi Cooperation - 2001-09-18

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud Faisal, is due in Washington Wednesday to discuss how his country might help fight alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. The United States is seeking the kind of cooperation it has not always received from the Saudis.

U.S. officials are trying to bring every possible partner into a coalition against the bin Laden network, the leading suspect in last week's devastating airborne attacks on New York and Washington. As part of the campaign, Secretary of State Colin Powell is holding a marathon round of consultations with other governments, including France, Russia, China, and several more nations as well as Saudi Arabia.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the United States is asking other countries for a wide variety of help in an urgent effort to shut down terrorist groups and stop further attacks.

"Can you share information?" says Mr. Boucher. "Can you help us disrupt the financial flows [to terrorists]? Can you close your borders, can you prevent transits of groups, can you investigate aspects of groups or attacks that it might be necessary to investigate? Can you close down offices and operations?"

Mr. Boucher says the United States is receiving excellent cooperation in law enforcement and intelligence sharing. But U.S. officials have long complained they had little help from Saudi Arabia in other investigations. This includes the terrorist truck-bomb attack on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 U.S. airmen died. In an earlier bombing that killed five Americans in Riyadh, the Saudis beheaded the suspects before U.S. FBI agents could question them.

Still, Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters Tuesday he expects his Saudi counterpart to lend support to the current probe. "We will welcome that help and assistance," he said. "They are good friends of ours. They have condemned this act from the very outset, from the very beginning, from last Wednesday morning on. I am sure he is coming with a message of continued support and commitment, but I don't want to get into what specifically we might be asking of them."

Saudi Arabia's cooperation may be crucial because, according to U.S. authorities, some of the hijackers were Saudi citizens or were traveling with Saudi documents.