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Saudi Prince Concerned About US Credibility in Middle East

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah says the war against terrorism is being undermined by, what he called, America's indefensible position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House says it is committed to peace in the Middle East and will not change its policy.

Crown Prince Abdullah told U.S. newspaper reporters that he is concerned about America's credibility in the Middle East. He says he believes Washington has turned its back on Palestinian civilian casualties in the current uprising.

In an interview with The Washington Post and The New York Times, the Crown Prince spoke passionately about the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. He says images of children being shot and territories closed are the "reasons that lead people to become suicide bombers."

Responding to the newspaper report, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said U.S. policy in the Middle East is not undermining the war against terrorism. Instead, he said fighting terrorism would ultimately bring peace to the region.

Mr. Fleischer said the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is well known and will not change.

President Bush wants Arab leaders to help pressure Yasser Arafat to arrest those responsible for attacks on Israeli civilians. The president said he is disappointed that the Palestinian leader has not done more to help stop the violence.

There has been some strong criticism of Saudi Arabia in the United States, following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Fifteen of the 19 suspected terrorists were identified as Saudi citizens. They were part of the al-Qaida terrorist network led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, who was stripped of his citizenship years ago.

Crown Prince Abdullah called Mr. bin Laden a "deviant" who misled Saudi youth for what he called "an evil cause" to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the United States. He said relations between the countries have not changed since the attacks.

The Crown Prince said ties have been strong for more than six decades, and he sees no reason that should change.

There have been reports that some Saudi leaders want U.S. troops to leave the kingdom because they have become a political liability for the ruling family in both the Arab world and in domestic politics. Crown Prince Abdullah dismissed those reports, saying there has been no discussion about the future of the 5,000 U.S. troops based in Saudi Arabia.

They went to the kingdom in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War and have remained without a formal agreement between the governments.