Saudis try to prove war against terror is their fight

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia has launched an unprecedented public relations offensive in America to counter accusations that it is a financial accomplice of global terrorism, saying it has imposed a host of measures to control charitable donations from the Kingdom and clamp down on money laundering.

Saudi Arabia has launched an unprecedented public relations offensive in America to counter accusations that it is a financial accomplice of global terrorism, saying it has imposed a host of measures to control charitable donations from the Kingdom and clamp down on money laundering.

At a press conference at the Saudi embassy yesterday, Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy adviser said the "unfounded charges" circulating in America that Riyadh had failed to co-operate in the war against terrorism had reached the point where they were "out of control."

Insisting that Saudi Arabia was a victim rather than a supporter of al-Qa'ida and other Islamic terrorist groups, the adviser, Adel al-Jubeir presented a nine-page report outlining the measures – designed to track the billions of dollars disbursed annually by the charities and prevent them being exploited by "evil-doers."

The complaints, that Riyadh is not sincere in wanting to tackle terrorism, stretch back to other terrorist attacks on US installations in Saudi Arabia during the mid-1990s, long predating the 11 September attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.

But since then distrust has reached new heights, amid Saudi equivocation over whether it would allow its bases and air space to be used in any attack on Iraq and – within the past 10 days – evidence that charity money which passed through an account of the wife of the Saudi ambassador in Washington had gone to associates of two of the 11 September hijackers.

Such is the distrust that some American officials in private, and some commentators in public, have wondered whether Saudi Arabia is a friend or foe. "We recognise it is incumbent upon us to more openly articulate our anti- terrorism policies and actions," Mr Jubeir said. The Saudi authorities were now able to track donations to and from the charities and subject them to audits. Charities that raised or sent money abroad now had to register with the Foreign Ministry and provide reports of their activities.

Mr Jubeir claimed that Riyadh had frozen 33 accounts – belonging to three individuals and one institution suspected to be involved with terrorism – containing a total of $5.6m (£3.6m).

Comments