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Officials in Arab States Pledge Support for U.S. Investigation

By Howard Schneider

Officials in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan pledged that their intelligence and police services will help U.S. investigators seeking to determine who was behind Tuesday’s attacks in New York and Washington. U.S. officials have said their suspicions are focused on the Afghanistan-based network of the accused Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and, according to U.S. reports, investigators are interviewing men who are apparently of Saudi Arabian and Egyptian origin and may be bin Laden followers.

“We agree that this is an attack against us all,” said Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdulillah Khatib, whose country in late 1999 foiled a plot by bin Laden associates. But he added: “We will need to exert effort to draw lines between the issues terrorism and the struggle for independence on the part of different people.”

Throughout the Arab world, denunciations of the attacks have mounted in the last two days, with secular leaders, Muslim clerics and even fundamentalist groups denouncing what happened as an offense to Islam.

“If such attacks were carried out by a Muslim ... then we, in the name of our religion, deny the act and incriminate the perpetrator,” said Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, a Qatari-based conservative cleric who has been among the most outspoken critics of U.S. support for Israel.

But regional analysts and government officials agreed there may be limits to what Arab states can or are willing to do on America’s behalf at a time when shock over the attacks is offset by anger over American support for Israel and what is seen as unjust punishment against Iraq.

Even as they pledged help in figuring out what happened in New York and Washington this week, regional allies stopped short of commitments for future military action.

Dismantling bin Laden and his organization or even toppling the Taliban would leave untouched groups like Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim movement in Lebanon; or Damascus-based organizations such as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine that have contributed to Palestinian attacks on Israel.