- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

No safe haven

The Saudi ambassador yesterday denounced the six suspected al Qaeda terrorists arrested Monday in the holy city of Mecca, calling them criminals who distort Islam for violent purposes.

“The fact that these criminals were preparing attacks in the holy city of Mecca during Ramadan, the holiest of months, is a clear indication that they have no respect for Islam or humanity and that they are cultists driven by a desire to inflict harm on the innocent,” Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said in a statement.

Saudi security forces broke up a “potential terrorist cell” with the arrests of the suspects in a raid on an apartment in Mecca, the Saudi Embassy said. Police killed two suspects in a shootout that left one Saudi officer wounded. They also seized machine guns, pistols, explosives and documents.

Prince Bandar said his government has arrested more than 600 terrorist suspects since the September 11 attacks on the United States two years ago. Fifteen Saudis were involved in the attacks. Since then, critics have accused Saudi Arabia of failing to cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, however, has maintained an intense public relations campaign to show it is serious about combating terrorists.

“Saudi Arabia is uprooting terrorists. There is no safe place for them to hide. The brave efforts of our security forces today undoubtedly saved lives tomorrow,” Prince Bandar said.

“We are determined to rid our country and the world of the scourge of terrorism. We will pursue them and those who support them vigorously and without mercy.”

Turkey taking a risk

Turkish Ambassador Osman Faruk Logolu believes the United States will succeed in Iraq and says his country is willing to help, if the Iraqi people want the Turks to send in troops to help the U.S.-led coalition.

He told reporters at a breakfast meeting yesterday that Turkey is prepared to take risks to help stabilize its southern neighbor.

“We probably would suffer fatalities. But when you are doing something important, you have to take risks,” he said.

However, “until we have a clear initiative from the Iraqi people, we will not insist on going into Iraq,” he added.

Members of Iraq’s interim Governing Council are resisting U.S. efforts to install Turkish troops in central Iraq. Some of the opposition comes from Kurdish members.

Mr. Logolu told reporters, who included defense writers from Reuters and the Associated Press, that he was worried about the number of Kurds on the council. Turkey has fought a 15-year civil war against Kurdish separatists, seeking to create a Kurdish homeland in parts of Turkey.

“The Kurdish representation is much in excess of their real standing in the society,” the ambassador said. “We think there is too much favoritism … being given to specifically the Kurdish groups.”

Kurds make up 16 percent of Iraq’s population of 24 million and have five representatives on the 25-member council.

Mr. Logolu said if a future Iraqi government creates a loose central administration with a Kurdish federation in the north, “that [would be] a recipe for disaster.”

“If you give the impression that you will tolerate a system of federal arrangements that might eventually lead to separation, then you are already building in a module of instability into the future of Iraq, and that’s why we say, ‘Don’t do it,’” he added.

Mr. Logolu said if Iraq accepts Turkish troops, they could be helpful in gathering intelligence on anti-American activities.

“What’s different is the body language, the ability of the Turkish soldier to relate to the behavior, the gestures, the rhythm of daily life, particularly how to relate to the women,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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