Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Saudis offer limited amnesty to militants

LESSER PUNISHMENT The Saudi government is telling militants that they can turn themselves in without fearing the death penalty, as long as they haven't hurt others

AP , JIDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA

The Saudi government has offered Islamic militants a limited amnesty, telling them to surrender within a month or face the "full might" of state wrath.

In an ultimatum suggesting that the kingdom is ready to toughen up its campaign against al-Qaeda-linked fighters blamed for a series of deadly attacks, Crown Prince Abdullah said the lives of those who turn themselves in within a month would be spared.

After that, "We swear by God that nothing will prevent us from striking with our full might, which we derive from relying on God," the de facto ruler said Wednesday, using some of the fiercest language yet against militants.

The ultimatum was issued in the name King Fahd, Abdullah's half brother.

Abdullah said the amnesty offer was open to anyone who has not yet been "arrested for carrying out terrorist acts.

"We are opening the door of forgiveness," the crown prince said.

"Islamic law will be applied to everyone who deviated from the path of right and committed a crime in the name of religion," he said.

Under the amnesty, only those who committed acts that hurt others would be prosecuted, and no one who turns himself in would face the death penalty.

Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, later said the offer should not be interpreted as amnesty, a word Abdullah didn't use during the speech. Nor should the offer be interpreted as trying to broker a deal with terrorists, al-Jubeir said.

Al-Jubeir said Saudi authorities have dealt major blows to al-Qaeda in the kingdom recently, enjoy the support of the Saudi population and will not let up in their pursuit of terrorists during the month.

Also Wednesday, Foreign Minister Prince Saud denounced calls by militant clergy for Saudis to travel to Iraq to join insurgents battling the US military and its Iraqi allies.

Saud condemned the beheading of South Korean civilian Kim Sun-il, whom militants had kidnapped in Iraq and whose body was found Tuesday near Baghdad.

In a videotape of the hostage, a kidnapper spoke with an Arabic accent that suggested he was from Saudi Arabia or a neighboring Gulf Arab state.

Kim's slaying proves "terrorism has no conscience ... These people have no human values, they are far away from Islam," Saud said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Saud said calls for Saudis to wage holy war in Iraq were illegitimate and that the kingdom would not permit its citizens to go to the neighboring state to fight the US-led forces.

Saudi newspapers have published obituaries and reports of funerals for Saudis who are said to have died fighting the forces in Iraq.

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