U.S. Offers to Help Saudis Counter Terror

Published November 10, 2003

| Associated Press

Saying the bloody attack on a housing compound in Riyadh bore the earmarks of Al Qaeda (search), the Bush administration on Monday offered to widen its support for Saudi Arabia in countering terror.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who arrived in the Saudi capital on Sunday, the day after scores of people were killed or injured in the bombing, made the offer to Crown Prince Abdullah (search).

Armitage told the Saudi leader "we will be full participating partners if that is the desire of the kingdom," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of steps since a similar attack last May in Riyadh, Boucher said. "They have been very aggressive in raids, going after terrorist operatives who have been using the territory of the kingdom for evil attacks," the spokesman said.

For its part, the United States has helped the Saudis increase security and shared information on financing of terrorists, Boucher said.

But, he added, "There is always more we could be doing, until we prevent attacks like this. And that has to be our primary concern now: What more can we do in terms of our assets, our support, and our cooperation with the Saudi government?"

Boucher said the U.S. government did not actually have evidence that Al Qaeda, the terror network headed by Saudi-born Usama bin Laden (search), carried out the attack.

But, he said, "it looks like Al Qaeda, it smells like Al Qaeda, it has all the earmarks of Al Qaeda."

Last week, the State Department informed U.S. citizens that terrorists might strike in Saudi Arabia and that the situation there was precarious.

But Americans were not told to leave the kingdom, even as the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh prepared to close on Saturday for an indefinite period.

The embassy and the two U.S. consulates in Saudi Arabia will remain closed for the rest of the week, Boucher said.

The information the United States had about the possibility of an imminent attack was not specific enough to know where it would be and who might be attacked, Boucher said.

There were at least 13 U.S. citizens in the compound, and several were injured in the attack. Boucher said. They were treated and released.

Most of the victims were Arabs. "Whoever is responsible for this attack is not just going after Westerners or foreigners," the spokesman said. "They are going after Arabs, as well."

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