Saudi prince flies to U.S. for talks on attacks
By Rawhi Abeidoh
DUBAI, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia sent its foreign minister and senior security officials to Washington on Wednesday to help in U.S. efforts to track down those behind last week's suicide attacks on New York and Washington.
Gulf officials and analysts said Saudi Arabia appeared embarrassed that many of those suspected by the FBI of taking part in the bombings appeared to be Saudi nationals.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is one of only three countries that recognise Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, which shelters Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. President George W. Bush wants "dead or alive" for masterminding the attacks.
A statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said the delegation, led by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, would convey the "condolences of King Fahd and the Saudi people to President George W. Bush, the American people and victims of the terrorist attack." It gave no further details.
A Gulf source earlier said the team would include senior Interior Ministry officials and that Riyadh, which has condemned the attacks, was prepared to share intelligence with Washington.
"There is a strong feeling of shame and embarrassment because many of the suspects are from Saudi Arabia," said a Gulf official who asked not to be named.
"This means that they are willing to offer any help the Americans might ask, but I don't think this will include taking part in any military offensive the U.S. might lead against Taliban or others," he told Reuters.
Analysts said the kingdom could play a crucial role in the U.S. investigation by providing intelligence about bin Laden and other Muslim extremists in Afghanistan.
STRONG RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN
Saudi Arabia also has strong relations with Pakistan, which is trying to pressure Taliban to hand over bin Laden. Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his Saudi nationality in 1994 for his activities against the royal family.
King Fahd on Monday gave his fullest expression of support so far for the U.S. fight against terrorism, but stopped short of spelling out the practical help he might offer his key ally.
Analysts say that Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, faces a familiar but uncomfortable dilemma: join the hunt for the suspected bombers and be seen by many Arabs and Muslims as a U.S. puppet, or refuse to do so and risk enraging a powerful ally on which it relies for protection.
Prince Saud has said he had been told by Washington that some Saudi nationals had been detained for questioning about the attacks that left nearly 6,000 people dead and missing.
Another senior Saudi prince has said that some names released by the U.S. authorities as Saudi suspects in the bombings were "innocent."
"The haste in publishing the names of suspects in the attacks has made the media fall into the error of involving innocent people, especially Saudis, and who later proved that they were innocent," said Prince Mit'eb, deputy commander of the Saudi National Guards and son of Crown Prince Abdullah.
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