- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

European leaders yesterday denied there were cracks in their support for the looming U.S. campaign against terrorism, while Saudi Arabia's foreign minister delivered his own message of solidarity and support to President Bush at the White House.
While some European leaders have urged Washington to take a measured approach in its response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, representing the European Union, said yesterday support across the Atlantic remained solid.
"You cannot be suspicious about the positions and the statements of some countries," Mr. Michel said, emerging from talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "Just wait and you will see the solidarity is ready to go much further than you think."
The United States and the European Union yesterday released a joint statement promising a "comprehensive, systematic and sustained effort to eliminate international terrorism its leaders, its actors, its networks." Among the proposed areas of cooperation: aviation safety, extradition policy and attacking the financial resources of terrorist networks.
Leaders of the 15 EU nations plan to meet today in Brussels to ratify their own package of measures designed to coordinate the internal fight against terrorism in Europe.
Separately, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal informed Mr. Bush that the kingdom would mobilize all its resources in the terrorism battle.
The oil-rich kingdom has been in the spotlight in the wake of the attacks, seen by many as key to the Bush administration's effort to enlist leading Arab and Muslim-majority states in the fight against the terror network of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, identified by U.S. and British officials as the prime suspect in the attacks.
But Saudi Arabia is also one of just three countries with diplomatic ties to the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which is shielding bin Laden, and the royal family faces intense domestic tensions over its approach to Islamic fundamentalism. At least 11 of the 19 named suspects in last week's multiple hijackings were reportedly Saudi nationals.
But bin Laden is no friend of the Saudi royal family, whom he accuses of being too close to the United States.
"Bin Laden's top priority has long been overthrowing the Saudi regime," according to a new analysis by Simon Henderson, an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Prince Faisal told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Bush that "it is necessary to combat the scourge of terrorism that exists in the world."
But, he quickly added, the fight against terrorism "should in no way follow the objectives of the terrorists themselves in creating an unbridgeable gap between the Western world and the Islamic world."
Mr. Powell said yesterday the Saudi foreign minister had been "rather specific" in his talks with U.S. officials on what his country could do to fight terrorism, but he declined to detail what had been offered.
Yesterday's visits were part of an extraordinary parade of foreign leaders trooping to Washington this week as the Bush administration tries to solidify international support for its war on terrorism and sound out allies about what measures military, financial, legal or rhetorical they can take to aid the cause.
Mr. Bush yesterday praised a pledge by Tokyo to beef up security for some 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan and spoke by phone with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos. Before his address to a joint session of Congress last night, Mr. Bush huddled with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, while Vice President Richard B. Cheney met with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan.
Mr. Blair has emerged as the prime mover in organizing a strong and united European response to the U.S. attack.
Before flying to New York yesterday to tour the devastated World Trade Center site, Mr. Blair met with French President Jacques Chirac and told reporters in Paris the anti-terrorism coalition had been gaining strength in recent days.
Mr. Chirac, who met with President Bush on Tuesday, has pointedly stopped short of adopting Mr. Bush's description of the anti-terrorism campaign as a "war." French officials have said they reserve the right to decide how to respond to U.S. appeals for aid.
But with Mr. Blair at his side yesterday, Mr. Chirac said, "Neither England nor France could fail to be present if the response is appropriate and efficient."
Mr. Blair, a day earlier, met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. German officials have also expressed unease about a U.S. retaliatory strike that could produce heavy civilian casualties or inflame opinion in the Muslim world against the West.

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