Muslim Group Criticizes Giuliani's Refusal of Saudi Gift WASHINGTON (RNS) A Washington, D.C.-based Islamic advocacy group hascriticized New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's decision to reject a $10million disaster relief donation from a Saudi Arabian prince whosuggested America's foreign policy may have played a role in the Sept.11 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Giuliani's decision to return the money he had accepted Thursday(Oct. 11) from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal -- a nephew of Saudi ArabianKing Fahd -- is "unconscionable," declared a statement from Omar Ahmad,board chairman with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "The mayor's actions are in opposition to President Bush's repeated warnings not to turn the fight against terrorism into a war against Muslims or Arabs," Ahmad said.

During a visit Thursday to the site of the World Trade Center, theSaudi investor denounced the terrorist attack as "a tremendous crime"and said Osama bin Laden, suspected by U.S. officials of orchestratingthe attacks, "does not belong to Islam." In a statement his publicist distributed during the visit, theprince said: "At times like this one, we must address some of the issuesthat led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of theUnited States of America should re-examine its policies in the MiddleEast and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause."

Prince Alwaleed said he believed "Jewish pressure" caused Giulianito spurn the $10 million offer. "The whole issue is that I spoke about their position (on the MiddleEast conflict) and they didn't like it because there are Jewishpressures and they were afraid of them," the prince said, according tothe Associated Press. Giuliani's decision was an effort "to score points with the domestic lobby for a foreign government," Ahmad said.

In a letter to the prince, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., said shealso was disappointed by Giuliani's decision. "Whether he agreed with you or not, I think he should haverecognized your right to speak and make observations about a part of theworld which you know so well," she wrote. A growing number of people in the United States "recognize, like you, that U.S. policy in the Middle East needs serious examination."

She noted that many Americans "have long been concerned aboutreports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal apattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force byIsraeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstratorswere unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to thesecurity forces or to others."

Such mistreatment "breeds a hotbed of anger and despair thatdestabilizes peace in the Middle East and elsewhere," McKinney said. "Until we confront the realities of events in the Middle East, ournation and the nations of the Middle East will be at risk," she said.

But Giuliani's actions drew praise from the Jewish Orthodox Union. "The Orthodox Union praises Mayor Giuliani for his principledposition and rejection of the contribution, which are in keeping withthe outstanding remarks he recently made at the United Nations, tellingthe world body that terrorism cannot be tolerated and that the so-calledrationalizations of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center andthe Pentagon are irrational and unacceptable," said the union, whichrepresents about 1,000 synagogues.