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Bin Laden's Call.

A recording said to be by Bin Laden called for the overthrow of Saudi Arabia's royal family and urged militant jihadists to attack oil installations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Bin Laden said: "Take jihad (holy war) to stop (the Americans) getting hold of (the oil). Concentrate your operations on the oil, in particular in Iraq and the Gulf".

Parts of the recording were broadcast on Dec. 16 on Arab satellite channels as Saudi riot police deployed in Riyadh and Jeddah thwarted demonstrations against the ruling Al-Saud family. The protests had been called for separately by a London-based Saudi dissident.

In a one-hour recording posted on an Islamic website, a voice sounding like that of Bin Laden urged followers to take their jihad to the oil industry to disrupt supplies to the US from Iraq and the Gulf. The voice called the ruling Al-Saud family "corrupt, oppressive" and "apostate" agents of the US, and dismissed their recent efforts to engage in reform and national dialogue as meaningless, saying: "This will not change anything. The only way to reform is the toppling of the regime through armed struggle".

The Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia led by the London-based dissident, Saad Al-Fagih, had called for demonstrations against the monarchy. (Political parties and demonstrations are banned in the kingdom, which has been ruled by Crown Prince Abdullah since the ageing King Fahd was incapacitated by ill health in the mid 1990s). The Financial Times on Dec. 17 quoted an unnamed "moderate Saudi reformist" as telling it by phone from Jeddah: "There were helicopters flying over and the middle of town was full of checkpoints. I have never seen the government this anxious about a demonstration".

As things turned out, the FT said, "even fewer protesters materialised" than during a similar demonstration called for by Fagih last year in which several dozen out of around 100 Saudis present were detained. Witnesses said a handful of people were on Dec. 16 arrested in Jeddah, two of them after firing a pistol in the air. In Riyadh there was no sign of regime opponents ready to confront the security forces. Whether by coincidence or not, the Bin Laden recording appeared to upstage Fagih, who advocates replacing the royal family with a democratic and accountable form of government but publicly favours peaceful methods to achieve this.

In the Dec. 16 broadcast the Saudi-born Bin Laden - leader of Al-Qaeda - "blessed" the five Qaeda militants who attacked the US consulate in Jeddah on Dec. 6, killing five non-American members of staff before four of them were themselves killed and a fifth was badly wounded. Until the attack in Jeddah, Saudi security forces appeared to have largely contained a campaign of violence launched 18 months ago by a group of Al-Qaeda sympathisers intent on destabilising the kingdom and driving out non-Muslims.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Date:Dec 20, 2004
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