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Controversy Surrounds Saudi Prince's Gift to NY - 2001-10-12

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is standing by his comments in New York Thursday linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States.

The prince gave the city $10 million for the relief effort Thursday when he visited the devastated site of the former World Trade Center. But Mayor Giuliani decided to return the contribution later in the day after the prince's publicist issued a written statement calling on the United States to re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance.

Mr. Giuliani said the statement implies that the United States was partly to blame for the September 11 terrorist attacks. "There is no justification for it," he stressed. "The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered four to five thousand innocent people. To suggest that there is a justification for it only invites this happening in the future."

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. But U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the decision to return the money is up to Mayor Giuliani and New York officials. Still, he called Prince Alwaleed's comments "inappropriate."

"What we find objectionable is linking the idea of the September 11 attacks with Israeli policy or U.S. policy in the Middle East," said Mr. Boucher. "We think there is no excuse for the murder of innocent civilians and I think history has shown that these people, al-Quaida, is out to kill Americans whatever is going on in the Middle East. They could care less about most of the governments in the Middle East who are working for peace."

In a telephone interview with the Associate Press Friday, Prince Alwaleed said he felt obligated to speak out on what is needed to solve the problem of terrorism, which, he said, has roots in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nevertheless, Prince Alwaleed said the United States has the full support of Saudi Arabia. "The Saudis are with the United States full-heartedly," he said. "This unfortunate incident should not jeopardize the strong alliance that we have between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Prince Alwaleed, one of the world's richest men, says the suspected leader of the terrorist plot, Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, does not "belong to Islam." The prince is the first member of the Saudi royal family to comment publicly on the terrorist attack.