Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign affairs adviser Adel Al-Jubeir held a press conference at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC on June 12, 2003, on the May 12 bombings in Riyadh, the war on terrorism, the oversight of charities and the banking system.
The following is the transcript of the question and answer session that was held after his statement.
Q There are some people who believe that this -- that the Riyadh attack marked a complete change in direction for al Qaeda, that while they had been targeting leadership figures before, that this really was a declaration of war against the Royal family. Could you address that, that the Royal family is now specifically a target of al Qaeda.
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I said a month ago, or almost a month ago, that this is a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia and against the Saudi state. We will rise to the challenge and we will destroy them. It's that simple. They -- we have always -- we have maintained for a long time that the two countries in the crosshairs of this murderous organization are Saudi Arabia and the United States. The targets that they have chosen have always been targets intended to destroy the U.S.-Saudi relationship. I think what they're trying to do is trigger a conflict between the U.S. and the Muslim world. We have to make sure that they don't succeed. We've made great strides in unraveling their organization, in breaking up cells. We have -- we know more about how they move funds and how they try to smuggle explosives, and we learn more every day. And I think -- I don't think, I know -- that we will win. But it may take a little bit of time. With regards to your point, yes, absolutely. We are convinced that they have declared war on Saudi Arabia, and we just have to rise to the challenge. Yes?
Q Secretary Powell said this morning that he's reaching out to all leaders in the region to really bring the hammer down on Hamas and the PIJ. Saudi has so often gotten a bad rap when it comes to this, but do you think any longer that when the administration says, "Everyone needs to do more," that they're talking about Saudi Arabia? Or to whom do you think he's directing these remarks?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I think to everyone, including the United States. We have always maintained that when it comes to peace, that -- as the crown prince said at the Arab summit in Beirut a year ago, that peace does not emanate from the barrel of a gun or the exploding warhead of a missile, it emanates from the heart, and we need to set that as our objective. We need to work towards that objective, and we need to undermine the ability of people to use violence and terrorism to undermine us on both sides.
We have -- I hear reports constantly or charges about Saudi funding Hamas. We've said no, that's not the case. Could it be that some Saudi individuals are funding Hamas? Very likely. Hamas raises a lot of money in the United States. But in terms of as a government or a policy, we have taken a position that we condemn terrorism in all its forms, and regardless of where it occurs, and we do not fund terrorists.
Q Could I follow --MODERATOR: (OFF MIKE)
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yes.
Q The foreign minister said a year ago, and perhaps more recently, that there's nothing wrong with funding Hamas. So I'm unclear as to when --
MR. AL-JUBEIR : Yes.
Q When was the Saudi government decision to no longer fund Hamas?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: What we do is, our funding to the Palestinians goes to build institutions, to help them build infrastructure -- schools, hospitals, roads -- to provide medicine to them.
Q Through Hamas?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Through -- usually we run it through international organizations -- the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Red Cross, the International Red Crescent -- and through the Palestinian Authority. That's where -- how we -- where our funds go through. 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 terrorism. Yes, sir?
Q Just to follow on both of those questions, in citing your statistics, where you -- (OFF MIKE) -- the direction obviously has been towards al Qaeda. Have you seen evidence of charitable contributions -- (OFF MIKE) ? And also, you guaranteed that it had stopped, that the pertinent process had been put in place, yet you seemed to contradict yourself with the answer to Andrea's question, when you said: Well, it may go into the political arm of these organizations.
MR. AL-JUBEIR : Yeah, I think what I was -- what I'm saying here is we have total control of where the money of Saudi charities goes; we know exactly where it goes. We have -- where there was some suspicious activity, that we worked with the charities to shut down those offices. We have rules in our banking system now that allow us to track every dollar that leaves Saudi Arabia. So, that's one part of the equation.
With regards to support for the Palestinians, yes, we give the Palestinians a lot of support, because they deserve it: 50 or 60 percent of them live under the poverty line; they have no medicine; their infrastructure is in shambles; they can't even pay salaries for their security personnel; the hospitals are missing equipment. And so, we provide support to the Palestinians, just like the United States provides support to the Palestinians. Do we as a government give money to Hamas? No. We give money to the Palestinian Authority or we give money to the Palestinians through international organizations that are doing relief work in the territories.
Q Just a follow-up. Have you had to shut down any charities, or have any charities, or have any charities curbed activities specifically for money going to Hamas or any --
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I just told you. We don't -- we raised -- we had --
Q (OFF MIKE)
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Okay. We had a -- we raised money for the Palestinians a year ago in a telefund that raised over $100 million. Before the telefund was over, we were accused of supporting suicide bombers. Not a dollar had left Saudi Arabia at the time. The funds were given to each national relief organizations that operate in the Palestinian territories. And those relief organizations provide us with an accounting. How one jumps from that to supporting suicide bombings is beyond me. Yes?
Q (OFF MIKE) -- payments made to the families of suicide bombers via Saudi Arabia?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We give money to Palestinian families in need. We have a list. That list includes several thousand families. If a family loses a breadwinner and they're living in poverty, yes, we give them money. Are some of those families, families who had a suicide bomber? Yes. But do we give them money because their son or daughter was a suicide bomber? No. Do we give -- is that money an incentive for them to commit acts of terrorism? No. Because if the family's in need, they will get the money. It's not -- we're not saying, "Go blow yourself up and we'll give you money."
Our religious establishment, our senior religious theologian, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, two years ago condemned suicide bombings. He said it's against -- it violates the teachings of Islam. Life -- you have life in trust. You cannot take your own life. That's against Islam. And you also cannot take the life of innocent people.
Q So, they're not known as martyrdom payments or anything like that.
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Because what -- I think where the -- where the confusion came is when we refer to people as "martyrs", it's anyone who died innocently. A Palestinian who gets blown up by an Israeli missile is a martyr. A Palestinian who gets run over by a bulldozer is a martyr. That's -- I think that's what created the confusion. In America people thought "martyr" equals "suicide bomber". How can we think of suicide bombers as martyrs when our chief religious theologian said it contradicts the teachings of Islam?
Q But it -- what is -- so you don't think there should be an effort to try to not provide payments to the families of suicide bombers -- (OFF MIKE) ?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, yes -- well, correct. But we have -- if you have 5,000 or 10,000 families that need help, do you punish the family because their son did something you disapprove of? I think morally guilt should not transfer. The bin Laden family -- Osama bin Laden was a murderer who murdered several thousand people. Do we go out and punish the rest of the bin Laden family? I don't think that that's morally right. Does the fact that they still have businesses in Saudi Arabia, that, the same argument would say, if they have the same businesses in Saudi -- if they continue to have businesses in Saudi -- are we as Saudis condoning or supporting what Osama bin Laden did because we didn't punish his family?
Q Well, just -- just to follow up the last question, how does someone get on that list of 5,000 to 10,000 families?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We ask the people in the territories to provide us a list with those who are needy, and we obtain the list of people who are needy, and we give money. In most cases, the support that we provide is not cash. In most cases it's blankets, it's medicine, it's food, it's -- and we have an accounting of it.
Q Has the United States asked the Saudi government at all to curb those payments to the families of suicide bombers?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I -- again, I take issue with the point of payment to the families of suicide bombers. Your government, when they built a school or they build a hospital, and the family of a suicide bomber uses it, are you supporting suicide bombings? Of course you're not. There are three and half million Palestinians in the territory that are living in abject poverty. Sixty percent of them. They don't have jobs. They don't have hope. It takes them four hours to cross a 10-mile area because of checkpoints. They are crying out for help. And so we provide that help, like other countries, including the United States. But in helping the Palestinians, we are not encouraging violence and we're not encouraging suicide bombings. I think it's the other way around. It's when people do so that they turn violent. Yes.
Q You've addressed what the kingdom is doing, broadly speaking, in terms of charities, in terms of organizations, what the government is doing. What is the status of individual Saudis who want to support organization X either within the kingdom, or send money abroad?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Right.
Q What restrictions, if any, are there in that regard, and what could -- what can you do about it? What have you done?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Here is what we've done. We've taken care of the structural part, in terms of our financial system, we've taken care of the issue involving charities. I think I may not have been clear, and if that's the case, then I apologize. But what we -- the next step for us now is to find out how we can curtail any possible support from individuals. Will we be able to do it? I hope we do, but I doubt it, because if an individual transfers money from Saudi Arabia to another country, unless that other country cooperates with us, there's very little we can do to track it.
But having said that, the systems and the mechanisms that we now have in place, I believe, are more than what exists in any other country in the world with regards to charities and charitable activities and tracking of funds and so forth. But it's not perfect, and we need to continue to work on this issue. We have -- or we believe that the most effective way of controlling this is on a multilateral basis, where countries are required to keep track of these things so that when funds get moved around, we don't lose -- we continue to have an audit trail, so to speak and we can identify where it goes. Yes?
Q Could you explain a bit more what led to the restrictions on the operations of Saudi charities abroad? I mean, al-Haramain, for instance, had several operations abroad that (OFF MIKE) , continued to operate. Was this a specific response to the Riyadh bombings or had it been in the works longer than that?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: It had been in the works longer than this. What we have done is we looked at charities, we audited our charities, we determined that many of them did not have financial control mechanisms because they don't -- we don't pay taxes, so they don't have a tax- exempt status that they need to protect. The bookkeeping was not -- I don't want to use the word "sloppy", but it was not up to par. So we worked with the charities on putting in place financial control mechanisms, requiring them to have external auditors and external audits and having people who are responsible, like a board of directors.
On the domestic side, it was fine because charities tend to operate on more of a local or city level. We then looked at the charities that operate outside Saudi Arabia and we found that the various offices of those charities in many cases had -- the head office had little control over them.
In the case of al-Haramain, we worked with the U.S. to shut down the offices in Bosnia and in Somalia, I believe in March of last year, and we submitted the names of the individuals who worked in those offices to the United Nations as being involved in terrorism. We looked at the other offices of al-Haramain and we discovered that in many cases the financial controls were not up to par. The individuals working in those offices, the vast majority of them were non-Saudis, about whose background the head organization knew very little. And so we worked with the organization, and they came to the conclusion that the best thing they can do is shut down those offices.
We then went back to our other charities and said, "We have a new law coming out that will require all international efforts by our charities to cease and to be directed through only one entity. And until such time, you should stop all your international activities."
I think we have been unfairly criticized for what our charities do and don't do. In most cases they support -- they spend a lot of money helping people in need. Now, I don't think there should be any ground for anyone to stand on in criticizing Saudi Arabia when it comes to the actions of Saudi charities.
Yes? And then I'll come back.
Q You mentioned taking steps beyond these financial measures; for instance, educating clerics who might have been inclined to encourage political extremism. Criticisms have been raised regarding some textbooks and other curricula in Saudi schools. Is this something that the Kingdom will be looking at as well?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yes, we have been. We have looked at -- we're looking at our textbooks. We have had a couple -- a number of studies with regards to the Saudi educational system and how we can bring it up to speed so that our students and our young can have a world-class education. We have started two pilot programs, one in Riyadh and one in Jeddah, with new teaching methods, and we're assessing to see how that works. And depending on how effective it is, we may roll it out on a nationwide basis. We have talked to experts from around the world about how one can improve the methods of education. And yes, this is an issue that we're looking at very, very seriously.
Q But specifically about political issues that may have been included in the previous curricula?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: When we looked at the previous curriculum, there were approximately 5 percent -- one of the studies recommended that 5 percent of what is in the textbooks should be deleted; that another 10 percent should be dealt with either by different ways of teaching, or by deleting, or by a combination of the two. This was the recommendation of one of the reports.
For us, the most important issue in terms of our educational system is the ability 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. And that's what -- that's why we're looking so seriously at this issue. Yes?
Q You mentioned some Saudi money may have ended up in the political side of Hamas. Do you have any way or have you set up any -- (OFF MIKE) -- to find out how much -- (OFF MIKE) ?
And then just the second part of the question, does Saudi Arabia view Hamas as more of a liberation movement than terrorism?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, I think I'll start with the second part first. Anytime you take the life of innocent people, that's unacceptable; that's terrorism. Anytime you try to fight for your independence, that's a liberation movement. But that one does not condone the other. When we provide funding, we give funding through international organizations or to the Palestinian Authority. And so that's -- we've had this discussion with the U.S. and with others for years. Most of the funding, I believe, that Hamas raises, it raises in this country.
Q With all due respect to your comments, I'm kind of confused, because last week, in Sharm el Sheikh, the president mentioned this issue of funding going to Palestinian groups other than the Palestinian Authority, specifically to Crown Prince Abdullah. And then yesterday, the president felt it necessary to repeat it. Is he ill-informed?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We, as I said earlier, as a government, don't provide funding, except through channels. Are there individuals who may or may not be providing funding? Probably. Can we determine who those individuals are? Unless we have the information and unless we have the audit trail, we can't. And so, this is a -- I don't know what the term for it is, but it's trying to prove a negative. Can you stop funding from America to various terrorist organizations around the world? Does that mean people should not ask the U.S. to try to do more in this area? Of course it should. I think that's the context.
We have worked, after the summit meeting between Crown Prince Abdullah and President Bush in Crawford, Texas last spring, on getting an agreement between the various Palestinian factions to work with the Palestinian Authority in order to move the peace process forward. We have not succeeded, because the targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel continues; the closures continue; the uprooting of trees and the demolition of homes continues; the humiliation of the occupation continues; and that environment makes it difficult to move the two parties together. What we've tried to do since the crown prince's peace initiative is to try to put an objective on the table and try to work to get both sides to move in that direction so we can get beyond this senseless violence and the senseless killing on both sides.
And now we're facing a challenge. We have had a great summit at Sharm el-Sheikh and at Aqaba. We have a road map that can take us, hopefully, from the current difficult situation that the region is in towards the path of peace. And we are now facing our first serious challenge. And how we deal with it is going to determine whether the peace process proceeds in a positive fashion or not.
But we can't deal with it if we look at it strictly from the prism of violence. What -- we end up with tit for tat. Someone is assassinated. A bus gets blown up. Other people are shot or assassinated. More violence. And it's been going on like this for years.
Isn't it time that people step back and say, "If the approach of violence has not worked, let's try something else"? And that's what we're advocating for both sides. Yes?
Q Thank you. If I may move to the subject of Iraq, recent reports coming from Iraq indicate that Iran is gaining ground inside Iraq -- (OFF MIKE) . And Saudi Arabia has always been wary about -- (OFF MIKE) -- the first Gulf War. Are you particularly concerned that the -- (OFF MIKE) -- Shi'ite majority in Iraq is also gaining ground inside Iraq. Are you concerned? Are you talking about this with the American officials?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Our main concern in -- with regards to Iraq is for the well-being and the welfare of the Iraqi people. We also believe strongly that it is important to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq and the independence of Iraq. We also believe strongly that Iraq's future should be decided by the Iraqi people themselves without any outside interference. And so, having said that, we are not as well informed on the ground as, for example, the U.S. would be, because we don't have people in Iraq. And so yes, we hear reports of Iranian involvement. We hear reports of potentially other involvement. And I go back to my earlier point, which is, it is up to the Iraqis to decide what type of government they want and who their leaders should be, free from any interference by any outside power. Yes?
Q Adel, if I can, I'd like to return to Hamas. Does the Saudi government consider the attack that happened yesterday in Jerusalem to have been a terrorist attack or an act of liberation?
And if I could also ask you -- because in your press release you say that the Saudi government is engaging Iran specifically on the matter of potential al Qaeda operatives -- (OFF MIKE) -- who may have been behind the Riyadh bombings -- is the Saudi government convinced that the attacks were planned in Iran? And do you have any idea which al Qaeda operatives are in Iran now?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Okay. Well, with regard to the first part of your question, any time innocent people are killed, it's terrorism. That's obvious. And we've repeatedly condemned it in all of its forms, regardless of where it occurs. With regard to the potential al Qaeda members who are in Iran, the Riyadh bombing was perpetrated by al Qaeda, we're very convinced. Al Qaeda is run by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and they may be in Afghanistan or Pakistan, along the border area there. We have seen the reports about al Qaeda members possibly being in -- having fled or hiding in Iran or in other places. And we are -- we have engaged the Iranian government, as we have engaged other governments, about extraditing any Saudis implicated in terrorism from those countries to Saudi Arabia.
If you recall, we have had some Saudis extradited from Iran to Saudi Arabia. We have had individuals extradited, Saudis as well as of other nationalities that we were seeking extradited to us from other countries -- Yemen, Sudan and various other countries.
With regards to the identities of who may or may not be in Iran, I can't get into that because unless we ascertain the identities ourselves, we're really going possibly on speculation. The Iranians have been, in the past, cooperative with us when it comes to extraditing Saudi individuals linked to al Qaeda or having fled to Iran from Afghanistan. And we will continue to work with them, and we expect and we hope that they will continue to be as forthcoming with us on this issue as they have been in the past.
Q As you know, Hamas has claimed responsibility for yesterday's terrorist attack in Jerusalem. How can the Saudi government justify supporting an organization that conducts acts of terrorism?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, I -- as I mentioned earlier, we provide funding to the Palestinians through the Palestinian Authority, like the U.S. government does, and through international relief organizations -- the UN High Commission for Refugees, the Palestinian Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. That's how we as a government provide funding to the Palestinians.
Q Are you prepared to condemn Hamas for carrying out this act of terrorism?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We condemn terrorism in all its forms and all its shapes. Any time you kill innocent people, it's condemnable, whether it's perpetrated by one side or the other. Our objective is to move beyond this violence and towards a situation where people can lead normal lives.
Q Why not say we condemn Hamas for this act of terrorism?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, again, we have condemned terrorism in all its forms, regardless of where it takes place. I think that the prime minister of Israel has to think very seriously about his policies. He promised the Israeli public peace and security over two years ago. They have neither peace nor security. Doesn't that beg the question, perhaps there's a better way? There is a peace offer on the table from the Arab world that has the support of most countries in the world. It's a reasonable offer, it's a fair offer. The only government that has not responded to it positively is the Israeli government.
And so, when you deny or you don't go along with a peace settlement, or you don't accept it in principle, then I would think from a practical perspective it becomes difficult to sit down with your adversary and try to work out a settlement. We're hoping they can do this, because then, hopefully, we can move from a period in which innocent people are dying on both sides to a period in which people on both sides can lead normal lives.
Q (OFF MIKE) -- in terms of the Saudi aid to the Palestinian Authority, not organizations but to the PA, does Saudi money go to Chairman Arafat or to Mr. Fayyad?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We give --
Q Who controls the money that you give? Is it under the control of Chairman Arafat, or is it under control, in essence, of the Finance minister?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yeah, I need to get back to you on this. But I -- I would imagine when it goes to the Palestinian Authority, whoever is in charge of their finances, that's who controls it. And so --
Q (OFF MIKE)
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yeah, I would imagine so. But it's not -- the objective is to provide it to help Palestinians meet their payments, for the salaries of their security people, and things of that nature. It's -- we don't play politics. Yes.
Q Yes. You have mentioned that the attacks have brought a jolt to Saudi Arabia. And then you also talked about the textbooks and ways you were going to -- suggesting you were opening up Saudi society.
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yes.
Q However, there is a very prominent newspaper editor, Jamal Khashoggi, who was just dismissed, fired for presumably being too open in the kind of reporting that this newspaper was making. Does that suggest there are limits to how far Saudi Arabia can move --
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yeah. What we have -- I think what -- Jamal Khashoggi is one of our most prominent journalists. He was writing and expressing his views in a direct fashion, in particular since September 11. I would expect that he will continue to do so. When he became editor of a newspaper, a prominent newspaper in Saudi Arabia, you become responsible for what happens in that newspaper. There was a cartoon that was published that depicted a suicide bomber, a Saudi cleric dressed as a suicide bomber, strapped with explosives around his body. On the explosives was written a fatwa. That is essentially a charge that says that our religious ulema are condoning or supporting or justifying the murder of innocent people. And this is not the case. Our religious -- our Senior Council of Ulema has been consistent in condemning the killing of innocent people. I think -- and again, I believe that that had more to do with it than --
Q But isn't -- (OFF MIKE) ?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I'll get to that in a moment -- that had more to do with his dismissal than him expressing his opinions. Because when you accuse people of being murderers, that is a form of incitement. And just like we cannot allow people to use religion to incite others, we shouldn't allow people to incite against religion. There has to be a moderate balance within this debate. Was it a wise decision? I can't answer that question. Did it -- is it -- but I was trying to justify to you what the background of it was, and that's really what it is. We need to have a serious debate. We need to temper the rhetoric that comes from both sides.
Q Just to follow up, I mean, generally, these sorts of cartoons, you know, are designed to generate debate. And you did say at the beginning of your presentation that about 300 imams had been dismissed --
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Right.
Q -- there are another 1,000 or so that are undergoing additional training. So, is that -- (OFF MIKE) -- the point of these sorts of cartoons, which may be exaggerated, but make a point and generate discussion, why is it difficult that --
MR. AL-JUBEIR : Yeah. That's a view and an opinion. And you know, I'm -- this is not a decision that I am involved in. But I was giving you my opinion as to what I believed the case was. We have had another newspaper editor, I believe, 10 years ago or so who was dismissed, also because of a cartoon that questioned the existence of God. So, maybe there's a link between dismissing editors and cartoons. (Laughter.) But what you may not think is important and what you may think is a form of stimulating debate, other societies may think of as unacceptable. And we just have to respect our differences here. Yes?
Q (Off mike) -- you continue to say that money from the Saudi government specifically goes to help international organizations and the Palestinian Authority. Do you consider the political wing of Hamas to be a legitimate international organization to -- (OFF MIKE) ? And if you think it's acceptable to give money to the political wing of Hamas, knowing that they support radical militants -- wing of Hamas, how is that --
MR. AL-JUBEIR : Yeah. What did Ronald Reagan say? Here you go again. (Laughter) We give money to the Palestinian Authority and we give money to the UN High Commission for Refugees, to the International Red Cross and to the International Red Crescent --
Q And -- (OFF MIKE) .
MR. AL-JUBEIR: -- and their affiliates. That's where we give our money as a government. We have -- we raise money -- when money is raised in Saudi Arabia, as was several times for the Palestinians or for the Bosnians or for the Afghans or for -- that money is channeled through international organizations, as I mentioned to you. That's --
Q Is one of those the political wing of Hamas?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: No. Hamas is not an international relief organization. It is not recognized as such. It doesn't have -- it may do charitable work in the territories; but no, it is not an international relief organization.
Q But you did say money goes to -- (OFF MIKE) -- Hamas.
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I said money may end up there, but not from us. Money may end up to institutions. If you have a hospital and you buy the hospital equipment, and that hospital is run or managed by the political wing of Hamas, maybe -- I don't know all the -- I've never been to the territories. I don't know that any Saudi has. But that's not the objective. And I think just as you raise those questions about Saudi funding, the same applies to American funding.
Q Outside the charitable activities in the territories, I want to get back to the other statements you made about charities internationally. On the one hand, you say it's illegal for them now to operate overseas; on the other hand, you say "we've asked them to stop operating." And clearly, they all have their assets out of your control. They're all overseas. I was in Riyadh 10 days ago and -- (OFF MIKE) -- was raising money for Bosnia and Chechnya and Africa. Are you saying that if we were to walk into the office for the Supreme Committee for the Donations of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo today, that no one would be there, the doors would be shut, and that no money is being distributed?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Okay. What I said is that we have our regulations, which you have a copy of, that require our charities -- first, in December we required them to coordinate all their activities with the Foreign Ministry. And then we asked the charities to stop all of their -- freeze all of their activities until such time as we had a new procedure for how they can operate outside Saudi Arabia.
Q But have they?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Now we have a draft law that is being discussed in our Consultative Council that requires -- that sets up one entity through which all foreign activities are channeled. And this entity is subject to oversight, it's subject to financial controls, and it's subject to legal requirements. The governor of the Central Bank or our government has asked the charities that until such time as this law is passed, they must freeze all their international operations.
Now one of our charities, al-Haramain, announced that it was closing all of its foreign offices. If you're telling me, "Did they close all of them," I don't think they're there yet. We know that they've closed four or five, and they're in the process of shutting down another two.
Are the others winding down their operations? I hope so. When you look at a charity like WAMY that is not a Saudi charity. It -- there are charities that are headquartered in Saudi Arabia that are multinational charities, that belong to the Organization of Islamic Conference, that belong to other multinational organizations. And those charities we are working through the head organization in order to see how we can bring them under control.
Q Those are the charities who have been the biggest concern --
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, then don't accuse us of it, because if the United Nations is headquartered in New York, is America responsible for everything the U.N. does? Of course not. We can deal with Saudi charities, and we have dealt with Saudi charities. We're looking at other charities in which we have membership, like WAMY and others, and we are working the process through this. Our objective is to have total control over the funding. Our objective is to make sure that people do not raise money in Saudi Arabia and spend it elsewhere without a total accounting.
Q How close are you now?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: I think we are right now closer than perhaps any other country in the world, including the U.S.
MODERATOR: Last question.
Q Isn't a major loophole if more charities start coming to Saudi Arabia and raise money without going through these new channels you're trying to set up? And are you trying to close that loophole?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yes.
Q (OFF MIKE) -- can you not bring those international charities under the same system that --
MR. AL-JUBEIR: That's what we're working on. The -- we have some leverage with these organizations, because we are a very big player in the Muslim world, and we use that leverage. The objective is to make sure that nobody can raise money in Saudi Arabia and spend it elsewhere without us knowing exactly where those funds went. And that's where we're working.
I want to also remind you that there are a lot of charities that claim to be subsidiaries of charities based in Saudi Arabia that in fact are not. You have the Islamic Relief Organization here in America. The parent company disassociated itself from them years ago, and did so publicly. And until today, I see reports that people say "a branch of a Saudi charity". It's not, it's an American charity based in America that raises money in America.
And so we want to be careful about how we characterize the legal status of various organizations. But the objective is to make sure that people do not take advantage of the generosity of our people and put the money that they receive from Saudi donors for uses that the Saudi donors do not approve of.
Maybe I'll take one question.
Q You mentioned that your senior religious leaders condemn terrorism. I think that doesn't automatically mean that there aren't other religious leaders who secretly support terrorists.
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Correct.
Q When you implemented your program of cooperation with Imams, were there some Imams who refused to cooperate?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: They have no choice. If they refuse, they're sacked, they lose their job. We jailed three Imams who, when we were looking for the 19 suspects, they issued a fatwa on the Internet and they said that the -- it's an obligation of citizens to help the fugitives not to help the government in apprehending them. Which we located the three of them and they're in jail now. Maybe -- okay.
Q How did Crown Prince Abdullah feel the Sharm el-Sheikh conference went?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Extremely well. We were very positive. The president showed commitment, he showed determination, he showed a desire to move the peace process forward. He was extremely well- informed about the issues. He was sensitive about the various factors that needed to come into play. And I believe he impressed the leaders of the region as a leader and as somebody who is committed to finding a resolution to this seemingly intractable problem.
The personal relationship between him and the other leaders was very warm and very good. He understood the challenges that the Palestinian prime minister faces, and he expressed his support for the Palestinian prime minister and a desire to work with him to achieve those objectives.
So I think the Sharm el-Sheikh conference went very well.
Q A follow-up?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Yes.
Q What is the Crown Prince's view on the attacks on Dr. Rantisi?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Our view has been, and remains, that we are against the assassinations of individuals. We don't believe -- A, we believe it's morally wrong; B, we believe that they do not achieve any objective other than further fueling hate and provoking reactions and responses which, in turn, provoke more reactions and responses, which in turn keeps the cycle of violence going and accelerating. They have not worked. They have not deterred anyone. All they've done is provoked reactions, which have led to the deaths of innocent people. And so there has to be another way out of this besides shooting each other or blowing each other up, and that's what we're trying to urge people.
Q Do you think it was in any way justified by the coming together of Hamas and the other groups that they support?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We -- there was a process underway to try to negotiate an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and between Hamas and Islamic Jihad on a cease-fire. One of the conditions was that the Israelis would agree to stop suicide -- or, to stop the targeted assassinations. Israel was not willing to do so. The chief of the Egyptian intelligence service, Mr. Suleiman, was scheduled to go to the territories to talk to Hamas and PIJ and Palestinian Authority the day of that assassination attempt. And the assassination attempt took place, his visit was delayed; I think he went subsequent to that. But the objective of his visit was to try to move the parties towards -- the Palestinian parties towards agreement on a cease-fire that would then allow the implementation of the road map to proceed. When you engage in an assassination attempt in the midst of efforts to try to broker an agreement that I would think would be beneficial to the Israelis, that's not wise leadership.
Okay. Thank you, everyone.