Saudi prince backs cleric's bounty offer for Israeli soldier

DUBAI Sat Oct 29, 2011 5:08pm EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - A member of the Saudi royal family has pledged $900,000 to a bounty offered by a prominent cleric to any Palestinian who kidnaps an Israeli soldier, according to comments aired on a private TV station Saturday.

Prince Khaled bin Talal, a brother of Saudi billionnaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told Daleel television over the phone that he decided to contribute to Awad al-Qarni's bounty after the Saudi cleric received death threats for offering $100,000 to capture an Israeli soldier.

"Dr Awad al-Qarni said he was offering $100,000 to only take a prisoner but they responded by offering $1 million to kill Awad al-Qarni," Prince Khaled said, according to a recording of the call published on Daleel's website.

"I tell Dr. Awad al-Qarni, 'I will be in solidarity with you and pay the remaining $900,000 to take an Israeli soldier prisoner so that other prisoners can be freed,'" he added.

Qarni said on his Facebook page this week that he made the offer in response to a similar reward promised by an Israeli family for anyone who catches the person who killed one of its members in 1998, following a prisoner exchange agreement earlier this month of more than 1,000 Palestinians for the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Qarni is well known in Saudi Arabia for his outspoken views but is not part of the official clerical establishment.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, sees itself as a champion of Palestinian rights but Saudi leaders have been at pains to curb more radical statements by Muslim clerics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2002, the Western-allied kingdom floated a peace initiative calling for full Arab recognition of Israel if it gave up all lands occupied in a 1967 war and accepts a solution for Palestinian refugees.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

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