- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia's defense minister said in an interview published yesterday that no troops would be allowed to use bases in his nation to stage attacks on Arabs or Muslims.
"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.
Prince Sultan's comments may have been for domestic consumption.
U.S. officials, speaking on the 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.
Bin Laden 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 deployed 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.
In the interview, Prince Sultan said there are 40 U.S., British and French airplanes in the kingdom as part of the U.N.-approved patrols of the southern Iraq "no fly" zone. He did not acknowledge that foreign soldiers are in the kingdom as part of the patrols.
About 4,500 U.S. soldiers and an undisclosed number of U.S. warplanes involved in the patrols are based at the Prince Sultan Air Base in al-Kharj, a vast compound in a remote stretch of desert south of Riyadh, the capital.
Also yesterday, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the United States had not officially informed the kingdom of any suspicions that Saudi citizens were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The FBI has said at least eight of the 19 hijacking suspects may have been from Saudi Arabia.
"We haven't been officially informed of any Saudi involvement," Prince Nayef said at a news conference.
"But if and when that happens, we are with the international community in the fight against terrorism."
He would not say whether the kingdom is conducting its own probe.
He also said it was possible Saudi passports used by suspects were stolen and suggested that if Saudis were involved in the attacks, their links to their homeland were tenuous.
"Saudi Arabia is aware that many of its citizens had left the country years ago and hadn't returned," he said.
"We don't know what happened to them or where they are."

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