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Saudi Crown Prince Criticizes House Arrest of Yasser Arafat - 2002-01-27

Saudi Arabia's crown prince has criticized Israel for its six-week blockade of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia since his half brother King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, describes the house arrest of Mr. Arafat as creating a "strange position."

Talking to reporters in Riyadh, Prince Abdullah said the confinement of Mr. Arafat to his headquarters in Ramallah is in his words, "strange indeed that a leader is imprisoned, something that has never happened."

The prince did not comment directly on President Bush's criticism of Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Mr. Bush said the Authority was guilty of "enhancing terror" by trying to smuggle a boatload of arms into Palestinian territories.

In response to Mr. Bush's threats of possible diplomatic measures against the Palestinians, Prince Abdullah said his advice for Mr. Bush would be "to take into account U.S. interests." That is seen as a veiled reference to Washington's considerable economic and military involvement in Saudi Arabia.

As for the Palestinian struggle for independence, the prince said that struggle should not be considered terrorism, which he said "no honorable man could accept." But he told the Saudi Press Agency that "resistance and terrorism are not the same. Defending my faith, honor and land is not terrorism."

The Saudi prince said he is sure Israel will have to soon abandon its detention of the Palestinian leader. When the next scheduled Arab summit is held in Lebanon in March, he said, "God willing, brother Yasser Arafat will be among us."