- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2001

President Bush did not apologize to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for U.S. media reports implying the Saudi government was not fully cooperating in the war on terrorism, the White House said yesterday.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush called the prince on Oct. 25 to "thank him for his support in the international fight against terrorism."
"He also said that press articles citing differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia were incorrect, and the president reaffirmed in that call his view that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, and that the struggle against terror is not a struggle with Islam.
"That's what the president said in that phone call," Mr. Fleischer said. "Of course, people are always free to interpret the president's words."
Several media outlets reported yesterday the prince said in a speech that Mr. Bush had begun a recent telephone conversation by saying "he was sorry" for the reports.
The Washington Post, reporting on the speech Prince Abdullah gave Sunday, quoted the prince as saying Mr. Bush was angered by the media reports, which have said Washington wants greater cooperation in the areas of law enforcement, freezing the assets of terrorist groups and military support.
"President Bush phoned me. He began the conversation by saying that he was sorry," the article quoted Prince Abdullah as saying.
Mr. Fleischer said that during the phone call, Mr. Bush noted "that he was very pleased with the cooperation the United States has received from Saudi Arabia."
Pressed on whether the call included "an apology," Mr. Fleischer said: "I have shared with you the president's phone call. There is no change in what is said about what the president's message was."
But while Mr. Fleischer said "the president called for a number of reasons," he did say "one of the reasons" was because he was concerned about press reports saying that the relationship was strained.
Mr. Bush has named Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born terrorist who lost his Saudi citizenship in the mid-1990s, as the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 5,000 Americans.
Despite a series of reports suggesting U.S. unhappiness with Saudi efforts to catch those behind the attacks, Mr. Bush has repeatedly said in public that he is satisfied with Saudi Arabia's efforts.
Of the 19 terrorists implicated in the attacks, U.S. officials believe 13 were Saudi nationals.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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