Rumsfeld to Kuwait as U.S. lifts alert in Saudi Arabia

Monday, February 23, 2004

ABU DHABI U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Kuwait Sunday for a three-day visit. Rumsfeld met Kuwaiti military and political leaders and will also confer with U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid.

In Saudi Arabia, the State Department has allowed U.S. diplomats and their families to return to the country. They had left the kingdom in December 2003 under threat of an Al Qaida attack on western facilities.

At the same time, Saudi opposition sources said Saudi authorities have increased security measures in the Eastern Province in wake an alert that Al Qaida has targeted oil facilities and Shi'ite communities in the region. The alert warns of suicide car bombings in the regional capital of Katif, Middle East Newsline reported.

Al Qaida's new leader in Saudi Arabia was identified as Khalid Haj, also known by his nomme de guerre, Abu Khazim Al Sha'er.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has launched a major military exercise.

The Saudi Defense Ministry said the exercise began on Saturday in northwestern region near the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The ministry said the exercise would last five days and include live ammunition fire.

The exercise was deemed as under the responsibility of the Northwestern Regional Command. A military statement said the exercise would include a series of maneuvers.

The military plans at least another exercise over the next few weeks. The Saudi ministry said the Royal Saudi Navy would launch a live fire exercise in the Red Sea in March.

The naval exercise would be include the naval vessel Jalalat-Al-Malek and include mine-sweepers and patrol boats from the Western fleet. The exercise would begin on March 8 until July 28.

The Saudi Press Agency warned Saudis to keep away from the "sites of these exercises and not to be disturbed by these exercises."

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