- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Saudi relations strong
Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan yesterday denounced press reports of tension between his country and the United States and insisted bilateral relations are "excellent."
"U.S.-Saudi relations are strong and based on mutual respect and common interests," Prince Bandar told the government-owned Saudi Press Agency.
"Coordination with the U.S. administration is more than good and [Saudi leaders] are surprised that the American media does not want to accept assurances by the president and secretary of state that relations are strong."
President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have repeatedly insisted that Saudi Arabia is doing its part in the war against terrorism, despite news reports that indicate some Saudi resistance to cracking down on financial support for suspected terrorists.
Other reports have criticized Saudi Arabia for denying the United States the use of its bases to launch air strikes against the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan.
Prince Bandar criticized those reports as "an indication that there are people who do not wish U.S.-Saudi relations to remain strong."
Mr. Powell last month also thanked Saudi Arabia for ratifying a treaty against terrorist financing and freezing millions in terrorist assets.
Prince Bandar, who spoke to the news agency in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, also denied reports of mistreatment of Saudis in the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Most of the talk about maltreatment is rumors and exaggeration," he said.

Mission to Syria
A top U.S. diplomat is scheduled to visit Syria today to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a U.S. Embassy source in Syria told Agence France-Presse yesterday.
William Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, plans to meet President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Farug Shara.
"He will discuss the entire range of bilateral and regional issues," the source, who was not identified, added.
The source would not comment on whether Mr. Burns will discuss the U.S. war against terrorism. The State Department includes Syria on a black list of nations that support terrorists.

Hezbollah outraged
The Lebanese-based Hezbollah movement, notorious for attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets, is outraged that U.S. Ambassador Vincent Battle has called it a terrorist group.
The Lebanese government "should expel the American ambassador," Ibrahim Bayan, a Hezbollah leader, told reporters in Beirut yesterday.
The United States should also "offer its apologies" to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, he insisted.
Mr. Battle, in a Sunday interview on Lebanese television, rejected Mr. Lahoud's characterization of Hezbollah as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel.
"Hezbollah is on the list of terrorist organizations because it is considered an organization that carries out terrorist acts and is capable of staging them on a vast global reach," Mr. Battle said.
The State Department holds Hezbollah responsible for "numerous anti-U.S. terrorist attacks," including the truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the embassy annex the next year.
Hezbollah is also responsible for the 1992 attack against the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and a 1994 bombing of an Israeli cultural center, also in Argentina, the State Department said.

Jordanians not involved
Jordanian Ambassador Marwan Moasher doubts that any of the 23 Jordanians arrested after September 11 were involved in the terrorist attacks.
"We have not received any proof so far from the U.S. administration of the implication of the Jordanians arrested," the ambassador told the Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai yesterday.
He said most of those detained are being held in connection with suspected violations of immigration laws.
Mr. Moasher also defended Osama Awadallah, a 21-year-old Jordanian student charged with perjury for denying he knew one of the hijackers involved with the attack on the Pentagon.
Mr. Awadallah denied knowing the terrorist, Mr. Moasher said.

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