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Afghan, Saudi Cooperation Praised

February 15, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House denounced the killing of Afghanistan’s aviation minister and praised the interim government for reaching out to Saudi Arabia for help in rounding up suspects.

President Bush deplored the death during a mob attack of aviation and tourism minister Abdul Rahman, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. The White House, he said, found it encouraging that Prime Minister Hamid Karzai sought and received cooperation so quickly from Saudi officials.

``That’s a good sign between those two nations,″ Fleischer said. ``Afghanistan ... will not emerge overnight as a nation of peace. What you see is a young government reaching out to Saudi Arabia, and two governments working together to fight the people who are responsible for this.″

Karzai said Friday that six senior government officials, motivated by a long-standing feud, were behind the attack on Rahman. Three have been arrested, and the others were being sought in Saudi Arabia.

Rahman was killed Thursday as a mob attacked his plane at Kabul’s airport. Authorities said the attackers were pilgrims angry over delays in their travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Witnesses and officials said Rahman was beaten to death and his body tossed onto the tarmac.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. officials have been told the riot broke out spontaneously after the crowd, delayed for two days while awaiting documents from Saudi Arabia, learned that Rahman was leaving on a scheduled flight.

The minister was stabbed, probably by someone with political motives, the official said.

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