Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday came to the defense of Saudi Arabia, rejecting complaints that the homeland of many of the September 11 terrorists is not doing enough for the war on terrorism.
“I think [the Saudis] are doing quite a bit,” Mr. Powell said at the State Department yesterday. “Their clerics have spoken out. They have excommunicated [terror kingpin Osama] bin Laden.”
Saudi Arabia also “took away diplomatic relations and ended all diplomatic contacts with the Taliban regime,” he said.
“They have responded to every request we have put before them” and “have taken action to stop financial flows. So we are very pleased with the response we have received from the Saudi Arabian government.”
Also yesterday, Mr. Powell won a strong statement of support for the coalition against terrorism from Acting Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Sabah al-Hamad, who said at the State Department: “We are allied to the United States and will remain allied to the United States.”
Some 50 countries have joined the anti-terror coalition including “four or five” that agreed in the past week to send troops, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
Italy yesterday was the latest to commit forces, pledging 2,700 troops, an aircraft carrier with eight fighter jets, two frigates and a supply vessel, according to Defense Minister Antonio Martino.
Germany on Tuesday promised 2,700 troops but did not say if they would be used on the ground or in the air over Afghanistan.
Britain, France, Canada, Australia, Turkey and the Czech Republic have also committed troops.
“We have assembled a remarkable coalition, a coalition that encompasses every continent in the world every faith, every religion, every political system” Mr. Powell said at a State Department security conference.
He disclosed that 500 victims, or 10 percent of the people who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, were Muslim.
Opening the door to attacks on other nations that harbor terrorists, Mr. Powell said the war on terrorism will be won when “we have also helped other nations around the world to get rid of the terrorist threats that they face.”
States such as Iraq have been seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction, and after Afghanistan is settled, “we will turn our attention to them,” he said.
The administration has been hard pressed in recent days to counter the pathetic images of wounded and dead Afghan children and other civilians hit in U.S. bombing raids.
Mr. Powell and President Bush are fighting to win approval for the bombing of Afghanistan in the Muslim world and in Western Europe, where polling indicates a shift away from support for the air campaign.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher ridiculed “this idea that somehow support is eroding for the coalition.”
He pointed out that the Saudis had ratified the Convention on Suppression of Financing for Terrorism and noted “arrests in over 40 countries.”
“So I don’t think we can say anything but that the coalition continues to gather momentum, continues to work at these various actions, and frankly, continues to grow stronger.”
He also claimed support from Muslims around the world.
“You have prominent clerics like the ones in Cairo at the Islamic Research Center who are speaking out,” he said. “You have Muslim leaders, the leaders of the Islamic countries, like [Jordans] King Abdullah and [Moroccos] King Mohammed and [Turkish] Prime Minister [Bulent] Ecevit speaking out. You have the Arab League speaking out again, and Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, making clear that al Qaeda is in a war with the world.”