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Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 17:41 GMT
Bin Laden popular in Saudi Arabia
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair walks along the red carpet with Saudi Crown  Prince Abdullah on recent visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Has the diplomacy been in vain?
By the BBC's Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner in Saudi Arabia

Support for Osama Bin Laden appears to be running high in his native Saudi Arabia, while anger grows at the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

Many Saudis refuse to believe that Bin Laden was connected to the terror attacks of 11 September.

Instead, many hail him as a Muslim hero, who stands up to the United States.

They hate the West for what they see as its biased policies against Muslims.

They adore Bin Laden.

Willing to die

Grown men tell you they love him, and that they would die for him if necessary. And some probably already have.

An unknown number of Saudi citizens have left for Afghanistan since September to join the fighters of Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden's organisation.

Osama Bin Laden in Al-Jazeera TV broadcast
A Muslim hero in the eyes of many Saudis
Al-Qaeda's opposition to the West and its policies strike a chord with people throughout this devout Muslim country.

Worryingly for leaders such as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who recently visited the Middle East, many Saudis refuse to believe the evidence presented by the FBI.

Arabs doubt evidence

The FBI says Bin Laden was behind the attacks in New York and Washington.

But many Saudis insist that the Arabs on board the hijacked planes were just passengers, nothing more.

It was an inside job, they say, by American fanatics, or maybe by Israelis.

Such beliefs have been compounded by the initial delay in releasing the alleged evidence against Bin Laden.

Saudi suspicions also deepened because of errors by US investigators.

The FBI was quick to release a list of alleged hijackers, but some of them turned up alive and well in the Arab world.

The result has been a proliferation of rumours, both in Saudi Arabia and in the wider Middle East.

These have destroyed any hope of popular Arab support for the West's military campaign in Afghanistan.

The BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzia
talked to Michel Peyrard in the presence of the Taleban governor
See also:

03 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden hits out at UN 'infidels'
01 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi leaders fear Muslim backlash
26 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: US nurtures Saudi ties
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