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Interview With Saudi Arabian Foreign Policy Adviser

Aired December 4, 2002 - 08:47   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Updating this breaking news we're following out of Israel, the media there reporting that the Israeli security forces have arrested a U.S. citizen they believe linked to al Qaeda.
Chris Burns is live in our Jerusalem bureau, and he has more on the story -- Chris.


We do have confirmation from the Israeli government here that perhaps another step in tracking down the money trail of al Qaeda, they say they've arrested an American citizen by the name of Kahaled Nazem Diyab: 34 years old; U.S. citizen; had traveled here a month ago from Qatar in the Persian Gulf; had come here to, according to Israeli officials, make some kind of a connection and pass money to terror -- according to the Israeli government -- terror organizations, organizations operating in the territories -- the West Bank, for instance. That this man was put under investigation, and since then has been deported. It doesn't say exactly whether deported to the U.S., but logic would have it if he's an American citizen, he has been deported to the U.S.

No immediate comment from U.S. authorities. He has been connected to an organization in the U.S. that was shut down in the United States authorities by the name of el Nudgedah (ph). That was the organization shut down for alleged links to funding al Qaeda and other groups. The head of that group, Rabia Habab (ph), according to Israeli officials was also put under investigation for passing funds to al Qaeda allegedly.

This comes in the context of investigations of other money trails. There's a trial going on in Germany on that and a suspect linked to possibly funding the September 11 hijackers. And allegations of possible links to the Saudis themselves.

KAGAN: Chris, interesting on the timing of the release of this information because, as I understand it, this arrest took place last month. Why is this coming out now if this man has been deported already from Israel?

BURNS: Very good question. Anybody could think that perhaps they wanted to keep this under wraps as they went to try to find other links to this man. That is only up to speculation at this point. But it was the media reports here, the local media reports here, that broke this story, and that has apparently forced the prime minister's office to come out and say, yes, they have indeed arrested and deported this man.

KAGAN: Chris Burns, in Jerusalem, thank you -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, more now on the Saudi Arabia's efforts yesterday to court public opinion in the United States. Saudi Arabia's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, responded to criticism of his kingdom's anti-terror efforts saying in part, quoting now, "It's bash the Saudis time" -- end quote.

Mr. Al-Jubeir joins us live now from Washington, D.C.

Welcome back to you. Nice to see you again.


HEMMER: Let's go ahead and pick apart a number of these issues. Why do you believe it's necessary to hold a press conference in the United States to state Saudi Arabia's position?

Because, Bill, the charges that have been leveled against us are not correct. The things that people say we are not doing we have been doing, some before September 11 and some after September 11. And rather than just say we are cooperating, we said let's put out the facts and let's show people what we've done. And as Ronald Reagan used to say, facts are stubborn things.

HEMMER: Are you holding press conferences in (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

AL-JUBEIR: We have publicized these moves in Saudi Arabia. I believe it's in most of our media today. And we have also announced the steps as we were taking them over the past many years. What we have not done is put it all together in one format and put it out in the United States.

HEMMER: Why do you find it necessary to take full page ads out in the major American newspapers?

AL-JUBEIR: We did that after September 11 in order to show...

HEMMER: And you did it a week and a half ago too.

AL-JUBEIR: I'm not aware of the ones we did a week and a half ago. It may have been from another entity, but I was not involved in those. The ones we did September 11 was to offer our condolences to the American people.

HEMMER: Why is it necessary to run television ads in this country essentially touting the accomplishments of your kingdom?

AL-JUBEIR: The ads were meant to inform the American public about the bilateral relationship and its history. You are aware that most American people do not watch news or read newspapers, and the only way to reach them would be through the mass media by doing television advertising. It shouldn't be surprising: Your own government is doing it in the Arab and Muslim world. HEMMER: The point is this -- and I think you know where I'm going with this: Americans are not stupid. They look at 15 of 19 hijackers from your kingdom, they want answers. You take to the criticism that you've gotten toward your kingdom, but essentially, you've been in this country for 20 years; you know how things operate here, and people want to get answers: Why not step to the plate and admit that you have problems in your own country with the extremist elements of Saudi Arabia and Islam?

AL-JUBEIR: See, that is exactly the trap that people have fallen into. We have problems, yes, but our problems are not more severe than the problems you have in this country or in other countries.

HEMMER: But we don't hide behind those problems, and we admit them and acknowledge them. Listen: All you got to do is go to Oklahoma City and mention the name Tim McVeigh. We do not hide behind that for one moment; neither do the people who live there.

AL-JUBEIR: And that, Bill, is part of your national character, and it's part of your charm. We -- our makeup is different, our attitudes are different and our behavior is different. We've recognized that very clearly after September 11, and we have tried to be more open, more public in terms of our emotions, more public in terms of the things we have done, and I think we've made great strides in the past year or so. We are not quite where we want to be, nor where we should be from the perspective of the American public, about from our perspective. But from our perspective and the perspective of our people, we've made great strides in being more open about things. And I hope that it will continue to move in that direction.

HEMMER: And so do we.

Take a look at this little quote here, it comes from a textbook. I believe it's used by 10th grade students in public schools in Saudi Arabia. "It is compulsory for the Muslims to consider the infidels their enemy." If Saudi Arabia truly wants to make strides and make a convincing argument, why not dash this from your textbooks?

AL-JUBEIR: We have been looking at our textbooks. We are purging approximately 5 percent of what is in them. The other 10 percent, we are trying to find ways of dealing with it either by purging it or by changing the way it's being taught. The quote that you referred to, I don't know the context in which it was done, but it's like taking a quote from Adolf Hitler: If you take it out of the proper context, people can say this is insightful; but if you look at the context in which it comes, it may not be as insightful as people think it is. This to not to justify it; this is just to try to explain it.

HEMMER: Let's talk about charitable contributions: Do you firmly believe that Saudi Arabia can stop the dripping of Saudi Arabian money eventually that finds itself in the hands of terrorists?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe that the funding for al Qaeda comes from all across the world. And I believe that a lot of it also comes from the drug trade. We saw that in the arrest of five or six arrests in Hong Kong recently. I believe we can do a lot of things in order to choke off the financing. Do I believe any country can have a foolproof mechanism? It would be unrealistic of me to say...


HEMMER: I agree with that -- 300 national charities that are well established in Saudi Arabia, billions of dollars, anywhere from $6 billion to $10 billion a year that funnel their way and find their way into these funds -- I agree with you that I think it's absolutely impossible to stop every dollar that funnels down.

One more point here: Saudi Arabia air space -- if indeed the United States leads this coalition against Baghdad and Saddam Hussein, at some point will the kingdom come forward and say, Yes, you can fly from our bases in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: We will support, as we've said, the decisions of the United Nations. We will make a decision in terms of the specifics when the time comes. I am sure we will make the right decision.

HEMMER: Adel Al-Jubeir, good to talk to again, OK?

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.


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