2003 Transcript

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nail Al-Jubeir is Director of Information for the Saudi Embassy in Washington and he joins us now to discuss the Riyadh bombing. Do you have any new information that you can tell us about at this point?

NAIL AL-JUBEIR, DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION, SAUDI EMBASSY: No. This is still too early in the investigation. We're still looking into who these people are, how they got the explosives, how it got into the country. This is something which we've been looking for and it's going to be a long night for the people in the field.

COOPER: The U.S. gave a warning May 1. Saudis discovered last Tuesday, a large cache of weapons, I believe some 800 pounds of explosives or so - put out basically an all-points bulletin for 19 militants, 17 of whom are Saudis. Do you suspect that group for this attack?

AL-JUBEIR: There was some suspicion that they were involved in it. We're still in the early stages of the investigation. One gentleman who was wanted has already been caught. So there - we're still looking into that. We don't want to jump conclusions in terms of whether it's the same group or not. We're still in the early stages here.

COOPER: In past years there has been a lot of criticism of Saudi authorities for their lack of cooperation with U.S. officials investigating an attack like this; for instance, after Khobar Towers, a lot of U.S. intelligence officials saying they did not receive the kind of high level cooperation, weren't even allowed to interview the four people who were put to death for that attack. What kind of cooperation is the U.S. going to get after this particular incident?

AL-JUBEIR: This is a serious attack. This is an attack against the nation, against civilization and, you know, it's not just limited against one. I think we have to find out who's behind this. We will accept cooperation from any nation that's willing to offer it and there will be cooperation. I think the cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States has been very good, has been excellent in the field of investigation as well as in the intelligence sharing and this will not be any different.

COOPER: We hear FBI officials are already going over there. Will they be allowed to interview any suspects who are taken into custody?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, this is something that needs to be decided in the field. I really - it's not for me to sort of make the decision here, but the cooperation will be excellent. I think you are only going to hear positive feedback when this happens. After all, this is an attack against all of us and we have to share and we have to work together. We're not going to get into that bickering aspect - of "he said, she said" type of thing - that sources sort of come up with on the talk shows and start complaining without having the facts. What we're looking at is - you have people that were killed. You have murderers out there that want to create more havoc for us, and both our nations, and we have to put a stop to that.

COOPER: We have just confirmed - CNN has just confirmed that all U.S. non-essential personnel have been asked to leave. How safe is Saudi Arabia for U.S. personnel?

AL-JUBEIR: I think it's very safe. I'm not surprised following the attack. It's a decision that was made and we will respect that. I think it is safe. It is - for people living outside, things look a little bit bleaker than for the people living inside. Case in point, Washington DC after 9/11: people were afraid to come to Washington from outside the United States or from even outside the Washington area, whereas people in Washington felt safe. So there's a different perspective of how things are. I think it is safe. As safe as any other major city is concerned.

COOPER: I think the difference is that with 9/11 it was not U.S. citizens who were flying those airplanes. The militants you have been looking for, for the last week, of the 19, 17 were Saudi citizens. What should U.S. citizens who are listening to this or watching this on TV, what should they read into the fact that you've got 17 Saudi nationals you are hunting down as terrorists?

AL-JUBEIR: And we are still hunting them down. I think the attack on the compound, on these compounds, is an indication that they'll destroy anybody in their way. It is not targeting individual groups. The compounds that were attacked, as barbaric as the act is, killed numerous nationalities and injured numerous citizens. So it's not a target - it's not targeting individual groups. I think this group, whether it is al Qaeda-linked or not, has shown the ugly face of terrorism and this is the case. They were not targeting ideology; they're not targeting military installations; they are going after soft targets - and this happens to be one. So it could happen anywhere, as sad as it is - and our condolences go out to the victims and we want to assure them that people in Saudi Arabia are going to be safe. We will hunt them down. We will try them, we will - they will face Saudi justice.

COOPER: All right. Nail Al-Jubeir, we appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you for having me.