- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain, who earlier wrote a poem praising Palestinian suicide bombers, now calls the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza "far more severe than anything the Germans did."

The London Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that Ambassador Ghazi Algosaibi made the statement this week in a speech and that the British Foreign Office described the remarks as "wrong and insensitive."

The newspaper, which quoted the ambassador in a commentary article, gave no other details, but it was an apparent reference to a speech Mr. Algosaibi gave to academics at the University of Westminster in London.

The Jordan Times, on its Web site, quoted Mr. Algosaibi as saying: "This is a war of occupation, far more severe than anything the Germans did when they occupied Europe in World War II."

Mr. Algosaibi called Palestinian suicide bombers "martyrs" in a poem published on the front page of the pan-Arab daily newspaper, al-Hayat, on April 13. In the poem, Mr. Algosaibi singled out for praise an 18-year-old Palestinian girl, who blew herself up outside a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two Israelis: "She kisses death, laughing happily, while from death the leaders flee."

Mr. Algosaibi's defense of Palestinian suicide bombers comes at a time when some moderate Arab governments are trying to distance themselves from acts of terrorism.

A poet as well as a diplomat, Mr. Algosaibi praised the suicide attacks in interviews with Saudi media, recalling his own desire to be a martyr when he was younger. "I do not fear death on the contrary, I long to die as a martyr," he told the Saudi-owned newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, "although I am at an age that does not allow me to carry out a martyrdom operation."

The ambassador has written other poems. He wrote an elegy for Britain's Princess Diana after her death in 1997, which was seen as a departure from his diplomatic duties and conservative Islamic background.

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