- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

From combined dispatches
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia accepts no responsibility for the September 11 attacks in the United States, Defense Minister Sultan bin Abdul Aziz said yesterday, even though 15 attackers were Saudis.
The remarks reflected a defensive tone throughout the Arab world, where few events were scheduled to mark the anniversary and many citizens said they still admired the al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks on America.
Prince Sultan insisted that the blame must be borne by individuals and not the state for the "dramatic day" when "innocents were killed" as hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
"If some Saudi nationals abandoned the doctrines of Islam and their nationalism, then they must bear the blame and not" the country itself, said Prince Sultan, a brother of King Fahd who has been defense minister for more than 30 years. He is second in line for the Saudi throne after his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah.
The attackers "had waged a war against their own country more than any other country, and the whole world knows what they did in Saudi Arabia," Prince Sultan was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency.
"The Saudi kingdom shelters no criminal or terrorist because our religion and our nationalism prevent us from so doing," he said.
Saudi Arabia has been the United States' closest and oldest ally in the Arab world, with ties dating to the 1940s. Since September 11, relations have been strained because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
Crown Prince Abdullah, meanwhile, sent a letter to President Bush and the American people saying the Saudi people felt "great pain" when they discovered the role of their fellow citizens.
Saudi Arabia at first denied that the hijackers included Saudis. In February, Interior Minister Prince Nayef became the first Saudi official to acknowledge that citizens of the kingdom had taken part in the attacks.
Elsewhere in the Arab world, a poll published yesterday found that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was still admired by most people in Kuwait, a startling figure 11 years after the United States went to war to liberate that country from occupying Iraqi forces.
The poll by the al-Rai al-Aam daily said 74 percent of 11,695 respondents said bin Laden was a "hero." It found that 19 percent regarded him as a "criminal," and that 6 percent had no opinion.
Kuwait has been an outspoken supporter of the United States since the 1991 Gulf war, and its officials have sided with Washington in its war on terror. Senior Kuwaiti officials are due to attend a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait today to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks.
In Ramallah, West Bank, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel and the United States of having seized upon the September 11 attacks to lump his Palestinian people's uprising with the "war on terror."
But in an hourlong address to the Palestinian parliament on Monday, the Palestinian leader performed a delicate balancing act, extending his condolences to Americans.
Mr. Arafat, whom Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had compared to bin Laden, said in his keynote speech that he was willing to join the U.S.-led war on terror if it stayed within international law.
"I'd like to tell the whole world and in particular the United States we are fully prepared to participate in any international effort to eradicate that kind of terrorism within the framework of the United Nations and international legitimacy," he said.
But he added: "The Israeli government manipulated the changes after September 11 in order to brand our struggle 'terrorist' and to cover the reoccupation of our land, while we are victims of terror," he said.
In Afghanistan, thousands of people rallied in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar yesterday and denounced the former regime and bin Laden for defaming Islam.
However, few citizens of the country where the September 11 attacks wrought their most significant consequences were grieving for its victims.
"For Americans, this day was a tragedy because lots of people lost their lives; for Afghans, it focused world attention on us, and now, thanks to that day, we are free, independent and secure," shopkeeper Mohammed Rahim said.

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