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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
How far can Arab states co-operate?
Israeli Arabs
Israeli Arabs offer sympathy to America
By Frank Gardner in Cairo

Leaders of the Arab world are lining up to co-operate with the United States in a global alliance against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others have all pledged their full assistance.

President George W Bush
President Bush may face a tough task in rallying long term support
As reports emerge that Arab nationals are among the suspects, their governments have been quick to distance themselves from them.

However, there are likely to be limits to the extent of Arab co-operation.

The first reaction of many in the Arab world to news of Tuesday's attacks was one of denial.

Surely, they said, no Arab or Muslim would ever commit a crime so heinous?

Denial

Editorials in the Egyptian press tried to convince their readers that it must have been the work of American fanatics.

One paper even speculated that only Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service could have had the organisation to do it.

Two airliners crashed into the twin towers
Thousands of workers remain missing

But, as reports build up that investigators are focusing their attention on suspects from the Middle East, most Arabs and their governments are quickly lining up behind America.

The initial suspects are thought to have come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. All three of these governments have unequivocally pledged to give Washington whatever help it needs in fighting terrorism.

The same goes for Jordan, Morocco and all the Gulf Arab states.

Even the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, acutely aware of his own vulnerable position, has suggested forming an Arab coalition against terrorism.

It is as if nobody, except perhaps, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, wants to be left off the bandwagon.

Difference

But there is a difference between offering to fight terror and signing up to a western led military strike that targets Muslims.

Iraqi men read reports of the attacks on the US
Iraqis read of the attacks; many fear their country may face reprisals

Where will the Arabs stand, for example, if the blame rests with Iraq?

No-one here in the Arab world will feel comfortable with yet another blanket bombing of Iraq, a fellow Arab nation.

Doubtless, these various scenarios are already being played out in Washington and elsewhere, but it is clear that beyond tracking down the terrorists themselves, enlisting Arab help will have its limitations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Muir
"Iran finds itself caught in an uneasy position"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | Americas
In pictures: A world in mourning
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Islamic world deplores US losses
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Nineteen hijack suspects named
14 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe mourns with US
14 Sep 01 | Africa
Kenya mourns with US
14 Sep 01 | Europe
FBI 'ignored leads'
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