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Europe

European Press Review: Al Qaeda Knows How to Exploit Oil

European editorialists focused Tuesday on the terrorist attack on foreigners in the Saudi Arabian oil town Khobar over the weekend.

The Financial Times in London said Saudi Arabia provides near laboratory conditions to incubate thousands of bin Ladens. The oil-dominated economy produces few jobs to employ a fast-growing, restless population, while the stultifying control of the mosque and political grip of the security services underpin a bloated monarchy, the paper wrote.

Expansión in Spain said Saudi Arabia needs peace in the Middle East because sooner or later Osama bin Laden's followers will attack an oil source and thereby cause crude oil prices to race up even faster. The most sensible thing would be to exert soft pressure on the regime to allow democratic reforms and to eliminate radical elements.

Although analysts are saying the oil markets will be shaken only briefly, Der Standard newspaper in Austria noted, it was without doubt a successful attack for al Qaeda. It reminds us that the United States' major war aim hasn’t been achieved: to build up Iraq as an alternative to Saudi Arabia, which the Americans fear will be destabilized. But because of the security situation, Iraq remains far short of expectations, the paper commented.

La Croix in Paris saw oil prices -- driven up by great world demand and great insecurity in the Middle East -- as a huge burden on the world economy. The price increases endanger the weakest countries and prevent recovery in the others, the paper wrote. If oil is the neuralgic point of the Iraq war al Qaeda certainly knows how to exploit it.

Speaking of a new Middle East crisis spot, the Berner Zeitung in Switzerland wondered what would happen if the radically anti-Western forces expanded their fight and targeted the Saudi royal family and oil sites. It would lead to such chaos, argued the Swiss paper, that ultimately the USA might even send in the military to occupy the oil production facilities.

The terror in Saudi Arabia is part of a war by fundamentalists against the entire Western world, claimed the Salzburger Nachrichten daily in Austria. If the murderers are able to strike so much fear in the hearts of Europeans and Americans that they leave the country richest in oil, its main economic pillar would shake. The royal family would suddenly lack the money to keep its own population quiet, and Western economic recovery would be harder.

Corriere della Sera in Italy said al Qaeda’s "holy war" was getting ever closer to the crux of it all: oil and the formation of a "caliphate of oil" controlled by Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists. They want it to include Iraq, the country with the second biggest reserves. The domino effect on other countries would leave three-quarters of the oil in their control.