The Washington Post

Paul Wong
President Bush talks to reporters after arriving at the White House in Washington yesterday. Bush spent the weekend at Camp David, meeting with his national security team. <br><br>AP PHOTO

WASHINGTON Bush administration officials reached out to Arab nations again yesterday, urging them to help the United States combat terrorists for their own benefit, but the call has raised concerns among Arab diplomats about the potential targets of U.S. action and sparked a debate about how the conflict against Israel would be affected.

“They understand very clearly that it”s as much in their interests as it is in ours that we end these kinds of activities and that we put a stop to this kind of international terrorism,” Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC”s “Meet the Press.”

But more than a dozen Arab ambassadors met Friday night at the home of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia”s ambassador to the United States, and debated the dimensions of the new U.S. war against terrorism and their roles in it.

While the diplomats worried that a U.S.-led war on terrorism could roil their own Islamic nations and move focus away from Israel, one ambassador there said the diplomats recognized that the Sept. 11 attacks had changed everything. “People and countries will have to start thinking differently,” he said. “Issues and sensitivities have to be reevaluated. We are looking at a different era.”

Anxieties in the Middle East could mount if U.S. investigators continue to discover links between the hijackers in last week”s attacks and countries such as Saudi Arabia that have dissidents and Islamic radicals within their borders.

President Bush has vowed that the United States will pursue not only individual terrorists, but the countries that harbor them as well.

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