Saudi minister says nation won't be base for attacks on Muslims

Monday, October 1, 2001

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia's defense minister said no troops would be allowed to use bases in his nation to launch attacks on Arabs or Muslims, according to an interview published Sunday.

"We will not accept in our country even a single soldier who will attack Muslims or Arabs," Defense Minister Prince Sultan said in the interview with the government-controlled Okaz newspaper.

Sultan's comments may have been for domestic consumption.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday, said they have received tacit assurances that Saudi Arabia will allow U.S. troops to use a command center at a base in Saudi Arabia as a staging ground for military action against Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who is thought to be harbored by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

The two sides might be able to find a compromise through which U.S. forces direct attacks on Afghanistan from a command center in Saudi Arabia, but use forces launched from other locations.

The U.S. military presence in the kingdom is sensitive to Muslims -- it is one of the reasons bin Laden has declared war on the United States. Saudi officials have in the past dealt with the problem by simply denying there is a U.S. military presence in their nation.

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