2003 Transcript

Foreign policy advisor Adel Al-Jubeir on new task force, with CNN's Paula Zahn

ZAHN: We're going to move on to a question about Saudi Arabia, that country today dismissing U.S. claims that Saudi citizens have been entering Iraq to fight Americans. Saudi officials say they have not seen any evidence to back up that charge. For months now, the Saudis have been defending themselves against charges they are soft on terrorists. And just recently, they agreed to set up a joint task force with the United States to investigate claims that Saudi citizens are actually funding terrorist operations. Joining us from Washington is Adel Al-Jubeir, an adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.


ZAHN: First of all, do you think this task force will make a fundamental difference?

Al-JUBEIR: Absolutely. It's something that has never been done between two countries. It makes your officials and our officials work as one group. And this way, we will have no delays in terms of exchange of information. And we will have no delays in terms of being able to pull together our resources to make them effective. Incidentally, Paula, this will be the second task force that we've now set up. This first one was done in May, which combines law enforcement and intelligence officials who go after terrorists. And they have done a splendid job so far.

ZAHN: Mr. Al-Jubeir, what a lot of Americans are wondering is, why is it that the Saudis were not able to do this on their own? Why do you need U.S. help to find out where this money is going?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, Paula, we are looking. And we have frozen bank accounts. We have put people in jail. We have done a lot of things that other countries have not been able to do. We still get criticism from the U.S. What we ended up doing is to say, fine, show me - come here,.let's do it together. And that's what we're doing. The United States has tremendous resources at its disposal. Maybe we have better analysts. Let's combine the two. There may be areas where we have better resources and you have better analysts. Let's combine the two. Let's put together our minds and put together our resources and fight this, because this is a threat that both of us are confronting. And unless both of us do everything we can, we're not going to succeed. And we have no intention of failing here.

ZAHN: What do you say to the Americans who believe that - not your sole motivation, but a major part of your motivation for moving ahead on this task force was that you - or your country, was the victim of some terrorist bombings several months ago, where 34 people lost their lives?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, that, in part, is true. America moved in the war on terrorism after September 11. That is also a fact. We have been fighting terrorism in Saudi Arabia since the late 1960s. We have been fighting al Qaeda, or going after them, since the mid-1990s without any help from anyone. Now we have decided, after September 11, to work with the international community and the U.S. in particular to go after them in a serious way. And we've done everything we possibly can. May 12 for us, was a massive jolt that shook us into action, just like September 11 shook America into action. Now, definitely, the extent of the tragedy between the two is vastly different. But just like America was shaken up in September, we were shaken up in May. And we have every intention of going after the terrorists and destroying them.

ZAHN: You raise the issue of September 11. And we can't ignore the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. As we come up on this two-year marker, what is it that your government has learned about the climate that allowed for these young men to be encouraged to do what they did on September 11, 2001?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, Paula, we take issue with this. Bin Laden has over 60 nationalities in his organization. He could have picked any citizen to put on those planes, including Americans. He chose Saudis to give this operation a Saudi face and create problems between our two countries. And in that sense, he almost succeeded. We have no intention of allowing him to succeed. We have taken a serious look at our domestic situation, whether it involves education, whether it involves creating jobs, whether it involves what is being said in the mosques, whether it involves what is being said in our media. And I believe we have done more in that area than almost every country in the world. I can't think of any country that has done more than we have.

ZAHN: Mr. Adel Al-Jubeir, always good to have you on. Thanks so much for your thoughts tonight.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.