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Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Saudi doubts over military strikes
USS Enterprise and an F/A-18C Hornet fighter
The US military build-up continues
The Saudi Arabian defence minister has said that bases on Saudi territory cannot be used for American-led strikes against Afghanistan's ruling Taleban.

"We do not accept the presence in our country of a single soldier at war with Muslims or Arabs," Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz said in comments published in a government-run newspaper on Sunday.

Anti-US protester in Malaysia
The planned strikes are prompting protests in the Muslim world

The official Okaz newspaper says Prince Sultan dismissed as "nonsense" reports that the Saudi authorities would allow Washington to use its bases to attack Afghanistan.

However, he did say Saudi airspace could still be used as his country's contribution.

That would imply that US planes could fly over Saudi Arabia but not launch an attack from its territory.

Policy unclear

There has been much confusion over how far Saudi Arabia would work with the US since the 11 September attacks.

On Friday, President George W Bush said he was "most pleased" with the co-operation the US was getting from countries in the Middle East for its global campaign against terrorism.

Prince Sultan
Prince Sultan - were his remarks intended only for Saudis?
That was seen as confirmation that the Saudis had decided to allow US forces to make use of a vital command centre launch at a military base outside Riyadh.

Analysts in the US say Prince Sultan's comments may have intended mainly for a Saudi audience.

Saudi officials have been reluctant to comment publicly on the use of their territory for US military strikes, apparently fearful of a backlash if Afghan civilians are killed in any military action.

One of Osama Bin Laden's main aims is the removal of American forces from Saudi Arabia, which he says defiles Islam.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Here in the Middle East America's build up in the region is not popular"
Defence expert Thomas Withington
"America will want to use as many bases as possible"
See also:

25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia warns of West-Islam split
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iranian leader: No help for US
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