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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Gulf states back US
Jeddah
The Gulf states are the Muslim world's wealthiest
Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and the five other Gulf Arab states have pledged "complete co-operation" with efforts to bring those behind the attacks on America to justice.

The foreign ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) - comprising Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman - issued the statement after an extraordinary meeting in the Saudi port of Jeddah.

But they gave no clues as to how much military support they would give Washington for any retaliation against the suspects.

Osama Bin Laden on a horse in Afghanistan, 1998
Bin Laden is himself from a powerful Gulf Arab family

And at the same time, the GCC urged the international community to halt "terror acts" by Israel against Palestinians.

The ministers also rejected any attempt to link the "heinous terrorist attacks" on America to Islam.

As the BBC's Frank Gardner reports, the Gulf Arab states are caught in an impossible position - they want to help America fight terror, but they dare not enrage their Muslim populations by openly joining a military coalition that could end up targeting other Muslims.

Not since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 have their governments been put in such an awkward position.

Washington needs all the support it can get from its Gulf Arab allies, both politically and in terms of military facilities, to fight its new war against terrorism.

They will probably hand over security information and crack down on sources of funding for suspected terrorists, without signing any blank military cheques for the campaign.

The correspondent says the states are angry that the US did not deliver on promises to help the Palestinians after the Gulf War but has instead, they believe, continued to take the side of the Israelis.

Divided loyalties

The US was always able to count on Kuwait, which has jumped at the chance to repay America for its liberation from Iraqi occupation.

Bahrain, too, was unlikely to put any restrictions on the US Navy's 5th fleet which is headquartered there.

But for Washington, Saudi Arabia is a major problem.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is aware of its own devout Muslim population

Thousands of US airmen and their warplanes are based there all year round, but the Saudi Government is acutely aware of its own devout Muslim population.

Many see the Americans as infidel invaders, as defilers of the land that gave birth to Islam.

If Saudi Arabia had refused to allow Washington the use of its bases for a military strike, it would have forced the Pentagon to rely more on its naval task forces in the Gulf and that would delay military action by several days, or possibly weeks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Many Saudis see (US servicemen in their country) as some kind of infidel Christian invasion"
Dr Mustafa Harmaneh, University of Jordan
"This is a unique opportunity for Jordan"
See also:

19 Sep 01 | Americas
US seeks global coalition
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati flies to meet Bush
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan exodus gathers pace
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Explaining Arab anger
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