Saturday, September 29 7:31 PM SGT
Saudi military source denies US to use air base against bin Laden: report
RIYADH, Sept 29 (AFP) -
A highly placed Saudi military source has denied that the kingdom will allow the United States to use its air bases to launch attacks against prime terror suspect Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan, a newspaper reported Saturday.
US President George W. Bush said Friday that Saudi Arabia -- thought to have been reluctant to help -- was "cooperating with us in terms of any military planning we might be doing."
His statement came following reports tha the kingdom had decided to allow Washington to use its air command facilities.
But the Saudi military source, quoted by the Okaz daily, said the kingdom will not allow the use of its "territory and air bases to launch strikes against anyone."
"These (reports) are absolutely untrue. They are simply media fabrications," the source said of reports that Riyadh had agreed to allow US fighters to use the Prince Sultan Air Base in launching strikes against Afghanistan.
The source said Saudi Arabia "is only committed to allow (the use of) internationally recognized air corridors" to the Americans.
He also denied the Saudi armed forces have been placed on high alert.
A Gulf diplomat told AFP Friday that the kingdom had agreed to allow the United States to use state-of-the-art air US-built command facilities at the air base to fight bin Laden and the Taliban.
"Saudi Arabia has no objection to the use of the facilities at Prince Sultan Air Base," said the diplomat, who requested anonymity.
He denied reports that Riyadh had resisted a request to use the command centre at the US-built base, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital.
"The Saudis had simply not decided," he explained, adding that US aircraft were already picking up supplies from Qatar.
Neighbouring Qatar has also decided to let US cargo planes land to load with supplies pre-positioned in the emirate, the diplomat said.
The Washington Post quoted unnamed senior US officials on Friday saying Saudi Arabia had signalled that it will permit US troops and aircraft stationed on its soil to take part in action against bin Laden and Afghanistan, where he is protected by the Taliban Islamic militia.
The paper said that after receiving assurances, the Pentagon dropped plans to set up an alternate command centre elsewhere in the Gulf region.
Some 6,000 US troops are bsed in Saudi Arabia from where US and British aircraft patrol Iraq.
The kingdom's rulers are caught between the demands of an ally which defends the country and the imperatives of a very conservative Muslim population