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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Americans Continue to Live in Saudi Arabia Despite Dangers

Aired May 13, 2003 - 19:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As we noted, the U.S. is ordering all non-essential diplomats and their families out of Saudi Arabia. Beyond the dangers and the difficulties, Saudi Arabia has an allure for tens of thousands who call the country home. You heard from one of them just a little while ago.
Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has talked to some more of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that the right saddle?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On weekends, the Owen family likes to go horseback riding in the desert.

Tom Owen is a second-generation American raised in Saudi Arabia. Now he's raising his own children here.

TOM OWEN, SAUDI ARAMCO: The major tradeoff is being so far away from your family. Of course, in our family, we've taken care of that, we've brought them all over here.

AMANPOUR: Saudi Aramco is the world's biggest oil company. Aramcons, as they call themselves, live in a company compound, similar to any U.S. military compound overseas with their own leisure activities, medical services and commissaries.

Other nationals, including Saudis, live here, too.

KATHY OWEN, SAUDI RESIDENT: The events of 9/11 have put a tension there that I don't think they feel good about. We don't feel good about, and it's just very sad.

AMANPOUR: Altogether, some 40,000 Americans live and work across Saudi Arabia.

(on camera) Americans are on high alert. There are frequent warnings telling them not to look conspicuous in public, not to leave their cars unattended, to check under the hoods.

(voice-over) Well-paid jobs brought them here, but they say the lifestyle keeps them here.

CATHY RYLANDS, SAUDI RESIDENT: Their sense of community that's missing in the States, as well. You know, your neighbors becomes your aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and so it's hard to find that. That's why it's so hard to leave here.

AMANPOUR: Inside the com pound, women are not restricted.

RYLANDS: I'm able to drive on the camp, I'm able to jog, go to the beach, go to the pool, but once I'm off camp I respect the customs here.

AMANPOUR: The Americans we talked to say they regret what they call a post-September 11 campaign against Saudi Arabia, by some in the U.S. government and the media.

MICHELLE ALI-REZA, SAUDI RESIDENT: Most of the people in the United States don't know anything about Saudi Arabia. They don't know anything about the people.

AMANPOUR: Many say they learn a lot living in this multi- cultural environment. They say they are more sensitive to how their government's policies affect the people of this region. And offer an alliance that has lasted 70 years, Americans say they still have most favored ex-pat status.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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