The Saudi ambassador to Britain, a well-known poet in the Arab world, has praised Palestinian suicide bombers and criticized the United States in a poem published in a London-based newspaper.

"You died to honor God's word," Ghazi Algosaibi wrote in "The Martyrs," a short poem on the front page of the Saudi-owned Arabic daily Al Hayat on Saturday.

The poem praised Ayat Akhras, an 18-year-old Palestinian who blew herself up in a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two Israelis and wounding 25 on March 29, the same day Israeli troops began their incursion into the West Bank to crush Palestinian militias behind a wave of attacks.

"Tell Ayat, the bride of loftiness ... She embraced death with a smile while the leaders are running away from death. Doors of heaven are opened for her," wrote Algosaibi, the ambassador in London for more than a decade.

In an apparent reference to Arab hopes that the United States could help end Israeli-Palestinian violence, Algosaibi, wrote: "We complained to the idols of a White House whose heart is filled with darkness."

Islamic leaders, scholars and ordinary Muslims have been divided on the issue of Palestinian suicide bombers, who have killed dozens of Israelis in attacks during nearly 19 months of bloodshed.

In Egypt on Friday, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, mainstream Islam's highest seat of learning, said that anyone who blows himself among Israeli "aggressors" is a martyr.

That contradicts a ruling last year by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, who declared suicide to be against Islamic teachings.

The London-based Arab weekly magazine Al-Majalla reported Sunday that the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had endorsed suicide bombings.

However, Mustafa Deeb, the Palestinian representative in Saudi Arabia, said Monday that his office had responded to queries from the magazine on Soha Arafat's behalf without contacting her, and that the answers referred to Palestinians killed by Israel, not suicide bombers.

"It did not at all refer to suicide bombings, just the issue of martyrdom in general," Deeb told The Associated Press.

Al-Majalla reported that, asked whether she would let a son carry out a suicide attack if she had one, Soha Arafat responded: "Is there any greater honor than (martyrdom)? Do you expect me and my children to be less patriotic and more eager to live than the sons of my people and their father and president who is seeking martyrdom?"