Washington — Saudi Arabia, Turkey cooperating in anti-terrorism effort, encouraging to U.S. officials
U.S. officials said Saturday they were pleased with cooperation from Saudi Arabia and Turkey as American military forces moved to position themselves for a military strike against Afghanistan.
The oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia is of enormous strategic and diplomatic importance to the United States.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Wald, commander of U.S. Central Command's air component,has shifted operations to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where he could plan and direct air attacks against Afghanistan and other possible targets in the region.
The United States has "a command and control center with Saudi Arabia. It's up and running and it's operational," a senior U.S. official said Saturday.
Having Saudi Arabia in the U.S. camp is useful also in countering sentiment in the Arab world against President Bush's campaign to uproot the terrorism network of Osama bin Laden and oppose the Saudi exile's supporters.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, consulted with Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell last week, and U.S. officials said the kingdom was cooperating with U.S. requests. The administration is "pleased with the level of their support," one official said Saturday.
The minister registered his country's condemnation of the attacks and pledged Saudi backing in the campaign against terrorism.
While al-Faisal was in Washington, however, a senior Saudi official cautioned in Riyadh that the kingdom and other Arab countries did not want to be thrust into a conflict. Any aid provided by Arab and smaller Persian Gulf states must be preceded by a clear and specific declaration of which countries and groups will be targeted, the foreign ministry official said.
Turkey, meanwhile, has agreed to allow Air Force transport aircraft to use its airspace and airports for a possible retaliation to the Sept. 11 attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said in a letter to Bush.
Turkey is also willing to share intelligence on Afghanistan with the United States. The Taliban rulers are thought to be harboring bin Laden.
"We appreciate all the support we are enjoying in the region and around the world," Pentagon spokesman Bryan G. Whitman said Saturday.
More than 50 U.S. and British jets are based at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey.
On another important front, Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow with his top advisers and talked to Bush on the telephone amid the deliberations.
"We have always been initiators of the effort to unite the forces of the international community in the battle with terror. If we want to win there is no other way," Putin said in comments shown on television. "We must unite forces of all civilized society."
Also Saturday, the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic relations with the Taliban for the leaders' refusals to surrender bin Laden. The move leaves only two countries that recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government _ Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia also was said to be discussing whether to sever ties with the Taliban.