2003 Transcript

CNN interview in Washington DC with SAIO Director Nail Al-Jubeir

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: One official of Saudi Arabia's government calls the Riyadh bombings a declaration of war against that kingdom. Its government has been criticized in the past for its level of cooperation in the current war on terror. The director of information at the Saudi Embassy in Washington is Nail Al-Jubeir. He is our guest this morning from Washington, DC. Welcome to 'American Morning'. Good morning to you.


HEMMER: Last night here on CNN you said you want to know where these bombers came from, indicating that they were not from Saudi Arabia. Do you stand by that statement?

AL-JUBEIR: What I basically meant was where they come from in terms of what led them to do what they did, where did the explosives come from, who instructed them to do what they did. That is something we have to find out, and we have to root them out. That is what we meant, and we're trying our best to find that and we welcome any help from any country that's willing to support us in this.

HEMMER: Then, what do you know about Muhammad al-Juhani, a Saudi, believed to be a leader of an al-Qaeda branch, who possibly masterminded these attacks in your country?

AL-JUBEIR: Personally, nothing …… If he has something to do with it, it's going to be the ministry of interior that is following this up, and they're looking into a possibility. We have arrested hundreds of people and questioned thousands of them, so it's a long process. And we hope that eventually we'll be able to root them out.

HEMMER: What is your country doing to crack down on the Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia and the preaching against America that is taking place in the mosques in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, as for the preaching, we have made it clear that mosques are for religious purposes only, and that preachers should stay away from politics. A number of people have been removed. The instruction went down from the highest religious authority that preaching the word of God is one thing, preaching politics and hatred is a whole different, unacceptable thing. And we are cracking down on those who are violating these rules.

HEMMER: You say a number have been removed. How many?

AL-JUBEIR: I don't have the exact number for you. I think the Ministry of Islamic Affairs made a statement some time about a month ago, so they have removed quite a number of those that they did not think were qualified to be preachers.

HEMMER: Yes. In the past two weeks, we understand based on reports, there was a lot of chatter that was originating in your part of the world that was related back to al-Qaeda, signaling an attack may be eminent. If that was the case, how much of this chatter was passed along to the police force and security division in your kingdom?

AL-JUBEIR: Oh, there's a very close cooperation between our - within our security operations, as well as those who are partners in the war on terrorism. We've been on heightened alert for at least six, seven weeks. We knew something was happening. We had them under surveillance. It's just a matter of - how do you know where they're going to strike and at what time?

HEMMER: Understood. If that's the case, then, why were these security guards outside the compound, why were they not armed?

AL-JUBEIR: These were not - these were residential housing complexes. It is unlikely that you're going to have armed guards on a housing complex. There were some that were armed. They did shoot at some of these perpetrators, and in some cases prevented them from moving further, deeper into the compound, creating more death and destruction.

HEMMER: In the few seconds we have left right now, is this a wake-up call again for Saudi Arabia and the problems that exist inside your borders?

AL-JUBEIR: I'm sorry, I didn't hear that.

HEMMER: Is this a wake-up call again for your kingdom to crack down on the problems you have within your own country?

AL-JUBEIR: Oh, we've known we've had these al-Qaeda problems for some time. We've been the target of al-Qaeda from probably the mid-'90s.

HEMMER: Then, when will it stop?

AL-JUBEIR: Once we are able to eradicate terrorism, and this is a long struggle. It involves international cooperation, sharing of intelligence. And it's going to be a long struggle, and we are in it for the long run. The death and destruction of civilians is simply unacceptable, and we will make sure that those who are behind it will pay the ultimate price.

HEMMER: Nail Al-Jubeir, live, in Washington. Thank you for your time this morning.