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Homeland Security

Washington File

12 June 2003

Saudi Official Says Saudi Arabia is "Mobilized" to Fight Terrorism

(Says religious, financial and education reforms are underway) (860)
By Charles Hays Burchfield
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The foreign affairs advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah bin
Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Adel Al-Jubeir, said Saudi Arabia is doing
"everything possible" to fight terrorism.
"The attacks in Saudi Arabia represented a major jolt, and they've
brought out the determination by Saudis to ensure that we can do
everything possible to prevent such murders from happening in our
country again," Al-Jubeir said at a news conference in the Saudi
Arabian embassy in Washington June 12.
The news conference was held exactly one month after four suicide car
bombings by al-Qaeda terrorists killed 35 people and injured about 200
at housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Al-Jubeir said the attacks have "galvanized" and "mobilized" the
government of Saudi Arabia to "go after the terrorists and bring them
to justice." He said the Saudi government has detained over 25 people
in connection with the bombing and has questioned "scores of people."
He also said the Saudi government has sought help from a number of
countries including the United States, has started to root out
extremism in Saudi mosques, is moving to close the door on terrorist
financing and money laundering and has taken steps to improve the
Saudi educational system.
Al-Jubeir said Saudi authorities have questioned over 1,000 people
since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and have detained about
300 Al-Qaeda members, approximately 100 of whom are awaiting court
trials in the country.
In addition to arresting Al-Qaeda members, Saudi Arabian officials
have arrested three clerics who preached hatred and intolerance,
according to Al-Jubeir.
"We have looked more intensely in terms of what is being said in our
mosques and trying to curb incitement," Al-Jubeir said.
He said over the last few months Saudi Arabia has dismissed several
hundred imams for "straying out of the bounds of religion and/or
engaging in political activity." Al-Jubeir said the government has
referred over 1,000 imams to educational programs in order to teach
them "about their role and what is permissible and what is not
permissible so that we can eliminate extremism, intolerance and
radicalism from our mosques."
Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia has started implementing economic reforms
to know where money from Saudi banks and charities is going.
"We have put in reservations and rules to ensure that the funds of
those charities are accounted for and that they do not go to any evil
purposes," Al-Jubeir said.
He said last month Saudi Arabia asked the Al-Haramain Islamic
Foundation to suspend its activities outside Saudi Arabia until a
security clearance mechanism to screen all personnel is implemented.
According to Al-Jubeir, the foundation closed its offices in Croatia,
Albania and Ethiopia, and moves are under way to close others in
Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia and Pakistan.
"It is now not legal for a Saudi charity to have offices outside of
Saudi Arabia," Al-Jubeir said. He said government officials are
drafting a law to create "one private entity set up through which all
charitable activity outside Saudi Arabia flows and until such time,
our charities cannot operate outside Saudi Arabia."
Al-Jubeir said the Saudi government has already closed down one small
"money exchange house" for not following the new financial rules
dealing with money exchanges.
"In this case, it's one strike and you're out," Al-Jubeir said. 
Regarding educational reform, Al-Jubeir said the Saudi government has
brought in experts from around the world to write proposals on what
needs to be changed.
"We are looking at our textbooks...we are looking at how to bring the
Saudi education system up to speed," Al-Jubeir said.
He said the most important issue was for Saudi Arabia to "provide our
students who graduate from our public schools with a world-class
education that will allow them to succeed in the modern world."
A question asked repeatedly by reporters was if Saudi money was going
to Hamas, a Palestinian group that is on the State Department's list
of foreign terrorist organizations. Al-Jubeir said Saudi money goes to
help Palestinian families in need, but does not go directly to Hamas.
"Our funding to the Palestinians goes through international
organizations, the UN High Commission for Refugees, the International
Red Cross, International Red Crescent and through the Palestinian
Authority," Al-Jubeir said. "A lot of the institutions may be run or
managed by the political wing of Hamas; that may be the case. I'm not
an expert on this, but we do not fund terrorists."
Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia has a long way to go in the fight against
terrorism, but he stressed that his country has made great progress.
He also said Saudi Arabia is listening to advice from the United
States and other countries on ways to improve its counter-terrorism
"We are open to suggestions," Al-Jubeir said. "If anyone has any ideas
on what else we can do, we are certainly open to that."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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