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Saudi Arabia: Riyadh vows to protect bin Laden family

Saudi Arabia has pledged to protect family and relatives of Osama bin Laden as Saudi citizens, the kingdom's interior minister said in an interview published yesterday. According to The Gulf News newspaper, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said family members could not be held responsible for the actions of bin Laden, whom the United States has named as chief suspect behind the suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon. "We are protecting the bin Laden family both inside and outside (Saudi Arabia) as we protect any other citizen," Saudi Arabia's Arabic-language paper Okaz quoted the prince as saying. "The bin Laden family in the kingdom are Saudi citizens. They have full rights and have responsibilities like other Saudis and they should not be blamed for deviation in the behaviour of one of them," he added. The minister's comments followed the arrest in Turkey on Monday of a man suspected of being a brother of bin Laden. Turkish authorities later said the man, identified as Abdullah bin Laden, was not Osama's brother, but he would still be detained for questioning to determine the exact relationship. U.S. media have reported that 24 bin Laden family members living or studying in the United States had left the country following the September 11 attacks, which killed more than 5,700 people. Bin Laden has denied any role in the attacks. U.S. authorities have reported numerous physical assaults on Arabs since the attacks. The head of the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia condemned the attacks on the United States last month. The family several years ago disowned bin Laden over his political activities. Saudi Arabia in 1994 stripped the dissident of his citizenship for his alleged activities against the Saudi royal family. He is currently in hiding in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it would not allow foreign forces to launch attacks against Afghanistan from its soil. Bin Laden, one of 57 children of one of Saudi Arabia's richest men, himself has numerous children from several wives. Asked if Osama bin Laden's children living in the kingdom had also lost their citizenship, Prince Nayef said: "Those who held Saudi citizenship retain them." Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz chaired the cabinet's weekly session in Riyadh on Monday, his first since he moved from Jeddah earlier this week. At the onset of the meeting, the cabinet listened to a report on theb consequences of the terrorist attacks on U.S., particularly the biased western media attempts aiming at linking terrorism with Arabs and Muslims. In a briefing to the Saudi Press Agency after the cabinet's meeting, Dr. Fu'ad bin Abdulsalam Alfarsi, the minister of information, said the council of ministers reiterated the kingdom's support of and full cooperation with the international efforts aiming at fighting terrorism. But he said the cabinet categorically rejects attempts of linking terrorism with Islam and Muslims, confirming that Islam is a religion of peace, amicability and tolerance and it abhors all forms of terrorism.

Henry L. Marconi PRAVDA.Ru Sydney