Saudi Arabia describes Israeli claims about financing Palestinian suicide bombers as “baseless and false”
Ahead of his meeting on Tuesday with U.S. President George W. Bush, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, met Monday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top aides.
A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said Rumsfeld expressed sympathy for the “loss of innocent Israeli lives in the recent terrorist attacks.” They also discussed the broader war on terrorism, he said. Israeli sources maintained that during the meeting Sharon raised the issue of alleged Saudi finance to suicide bombing against Israel.
Members of the Israeli delegation, escorting Sharon to Washington, accused Saudi Arabia on Monday of encouraging Palestinian bomb attacks against Israeli civilians, including one that also killed a U.S. citizen in 1995.
According to AP, the Israelis distributed an 85-page report at a news conference at their embassy. An Israeli official denied the report was timed to influence Sharon's talks with Bush, who has been working closely with the Saudis to try to resolve the Middle East crisis.
But the official, Israeli Education Minister Limor Livnat, said: "If Saudi policy is to finance suicide bombers, then they probably cannot be part of the peace coalition."
The report said that during Israel's recent wave of incursions into the West Bank, security forces found documents in mosques listing Saudi payments to families of suicide bombers and to Hamas, which is listed by the United States as a “terrorist” group.
Saudi government officials released a statement calling the Israeli claims "shameful and counterproductive."
"Terrorism is against our religion and culture and we have been the victims of it for the past four decades," the statement said. "These allegations are a smokescreeen intended to distract attention away from the peace process. Israel wants to discredit Saudi Arabia which has been a leading voice for peace and the catalyst for a peace plan that has been positively received by more than 60 world leaders."
The Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, issued a statement calling the allegations "totally baseless and false.” Saudi officials have insisted that, while they support the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, they do not encourage suicide bombings.
The Israeli report also said unspecified "large sums of money" were channeled through a committee under the auspices of the Saudi Interior Ministry.
"The Saudi Committee for Support of the Intifada was aware that the funds it transferred were paid to the families of terrorists who perpetrated murderous attacks in Israeli cities," the Israeli report said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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