Gulf nations pledge more

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Six Persian Gulf nations pledged Tuesday to do more to combat terrorism, but criticized Western reports questioning Saudi support for anti-terror measures.

Interior ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates meeting in Bahrain agreed to swap information to eliminate the sources of funding for terrorism organizations.

Saudi official Prince Nayef said the ministers' condemned what he called Western media bias against Saudi Arabia over its response to the U.S. anti-terror campaign.

"The media generally reflects public opinion, but we don't see this as the true opinion of the American people or the others," Nayef said.

He said views expressed in the U.S. press were "different" from those relayed "officially" by the Bush administration.

Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. regional ally, has condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, but has not acknowledged whether any Saudis were involved, despite FBI assertions that at least 10 of the 19 suspected hijackers were Saudis.

Last week, Nayef criticized the U.S. strikes in Afghanistan aimed at that country's Taliban rulers and Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the attacks. Saudi Arabia also has refused to open its bases to U.S. forces.

The airstrikes were launched Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to deliver bin Laden to the United States.

U.S. officials have insisted that Saudi Arabia has been supportive, but privately complain of a lack of cooperation from a country the United States defended during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain said on CNN's "Late Edition" that Saudi Arabia has "not, at least from a layman's point of view, been helpful."

Nayef said Monday that the U.S.-Saudi relationship "is at its best, and the United States has shown great understanding for the Saudi position."

While many ordinary Saudis fear the U.S. war on terror is a pretext for attacking Arabs and Muslims, the Saudi government has allied itself with Washington.

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