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Saudi Official Says Bin Laden to Blame for Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

The Associated Press Published: Oct 31, 2001

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership are responsible for the civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led bombings in Afghanistan, a top Saudi official was quoted Wednesday as saying by the state news agency. In the first statement of its kind since U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan began Oct. 7, Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz said Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and bin Laden "bear responsibility for those innocents who are under their protection."

Ahmed, speaking in a Tuesday evening news conference, said it was unacceptable that "the Afghan people and Muslim interests should be victimized for the sake of individuals," the news agency said.

The comments came amid concern over growing anger in the Islamic world, blaming the United States for civilian casualties in the Afghan campaign. Washington says it regrets unintended deaths and that it targets only Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and bin Laden, accused in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on Washington and New York.

Saudi Arabia has said it supports the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, but it has refused to allow its bases to be used as staging grounds for the attacks.

Ahmed reiterated official Saudi concern that civilians are being killed in the four-week-old bombardment.

But he laid the blame on bin Laden, a Saudi exile, for bringing the U.S. assault. "The current situation of Osama bin Laden and his group and what they have shown of their positions has made them culpable to a large extent, approaching 100 percent, and prompted the United States to take these measures to fight terrorism," he said.

Separately, he said that a Filipino man working in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah and wanted by Kuwaiti authorities in connection with the shooting death of a Canadian man earlier this month would be handed over to Kuwaiti authorities as soon as paperwork was completed.

Ahmed said the man has denied any involvement in the shooting and is eager to travel to Kuwait to clear his name.

AP-ES-10-31-01 1258EST

-- Martin Thompson (, October 31, 2001


Saudis Have Issued Order to Freeze Terrorist-Linked Assets, U.S. Official Says By Marcy Gordon The Associated Press Published: Oct 31, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Saudi government has issued an order to freeze assets in that country of individuals and groups suspected of links to terrorism, cooperating with the U.S. campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, a Bush administration official said Wednesday. President Bush issued a sweeping order on Sept. 24 to block terrorist assets.

The U.S. government is in a delicate situation in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, a longstanding American ally that has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-organized anti-terror coalition. The Saudis have refused to allow their bases to be used as staging grounds for the attacks, which were sparked by the Taliban's refusal to hand over Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Saudi Arabia "has cooperated" with the U.S. financial action against terrorism and has issued an order to block the assets, Jimmy Gurule, the Treasury undersecretary for enforcement, told reporters.

Asked whether the Saudi government had actually blocked assets, Gurule replied, "I think what's most important is cooperation." In some cases, it may be more desirable to keep bank accounts open and monitor them as part of an investigation, he said.

Treasury officials say 152 countries have pledged cooperation with the U.S. effort. Of those, 81 have issued asset blocking orders, including Saudi Arabia.

An official said Wednesday that the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, had said in mid-October that its member nations were issuing blocking orders.

The revelation about Saudi Arabia came as a 29-nation anti-money- laundering group, which had met in a two-day emergency session in Washington, announced it had adopted measures to disrupt terrorists' financing. The measures include imposing anti-money-laundering requirements on non-bank financial systems such as the informal "hawala" system believed to be used by bin Laden's network to move money.

The actions by the task force, part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "could potentially save thousands of lives," Gurule said. He said they show "the kind of cooperation and international teamwork necessary to shut down those who perpetrate acts of terror against us and other law-abiding nations."

AP-ES-10-31-01 1300EST

-- Martin Thompson (, October 31, 2001.

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