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Saudi militants have chance to surrender -official

Written by: Staff
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RIYADH, Aug 24 (Reuters) Militants fighting to bring down the government of the world's top oil exporter will be spared if they surrender, Saudi Arabia's interior minister said in comments published today.

Prince Nayef was speaking days after four militants surrendered as Saudi security forces besieged a building in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Clashes with al Qaeda supporters over the last three years have often resulted in deaths.

''We appreciate all those who respond to the security forces and we will deal with them on that basis, but those who do not respond and put the country in danger will get what they deserve,'' Prince Nayef was quoted as saying in Okaz newspaper.

Officials say more than 136 militants and 150 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

In June, King Abdullah renewed an amnesty he first offered to repentant militants two years ago when he was then crown prince and when the campaign by Islamic militants to topple the US-allied Saudi monarchy was at its height.

Militants appeared to reject the call when a statement signed by the al Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula was then posted on a main Islamist Web site, saying they would not surrender.

Although the violent campaign has ebbed in the face of toughened security measures, Saudi Arabia has seen two prison break-outs this year that have raised concerns about security.

Prince Nayef, one of the key Saudi royals, confirmed that two of the men arrested on Monday were among seven people who escaped from a detention centre in Riyadh in June.

''(We) will be able to find out if they were involved in other operations,'' he said, adding their arrest would help lead to other militant suspects.

REUTERS LL ND1532

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