2004 Transcript

Adel Al-Jubeir on CNN's 'Late Edition' on U.S. hostage case

Foreign Affairs Advisor Adel-Al-Jubeir was interviewed on Sunday, June 20 by Wolf Blitzer on ‘Late Edition’ concerning ongoing investigation of the murder of U.S. hostage Paul Johnson

WOLF BLITZER: The Bush administration is expressing confidence in Saudi Arabia's efforts to combat terror, but some U.S. lawmakers are seriously questioning that country's commitment after the beheading of the American hostage Paul Johnson. Joining us now, Saudi Arabia's foreign policy adviser, Adel al- Jubeir. Mr. al-Jubeir, welcome back to ‘Late Edition’. Thanks very much for joining us. First of all, any progress in finding the body of Paul Johnson?
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: We are still searching. We are still combing through neighborhoods. And we hope that eventually we'll find the body and restore it to his family.
BLITZER: But right now you have not found it?
AL-JUBEIR: As of now, we have not found it.
BLITZER: What do you say, what do you want to say on behalf of the Saudi government to the family of Paul Johnson? They're obviously grieving in New Jersey right now.
AL-JUBEIR: We want to express our sincerest condolences to the family. Our prayers and thoughts are with them as they go through this difficult time. May God grant them patience and strength as they deal with the situation. We feel a sense of sorrow that we were not able to rescue him before he was murdered, and we wish them the best as they deal with this very difficult and tragic situation.
BLITZER: Now, you do have the body of this al Qaeda leader, Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin. Is that right?
AL-JUBEIR: That is correct, yes.
BLITZER: And what does that mean, the fact that you got this guy, that you killed him, but that other al Qaeda operatives clearly still at large in Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: We will pursue them. We will go after every one of them, and with the help of God, we will catch every one of them. We have no doubt. This is a struggle that we intend to continue until the bitter end.
BLITZER: Did you capture any of these al Qaeda operatives alive?
AL-JUBEIR: We have 12 suspects that were captured alive.
BLITZER: Are they giving information on the whereabouts presumably or the plots, the plans of other al Qaeda cells out there?
AL-JUBEIR: They are being questioned as we speak, and it would not be appropriate for us to talk about what it is they're telling us or not telling us at this time.
BLITZER: What is the U.S. government's role, involvement in any of this?
AL-JUBEIR: The U.S. government is working closely with our government in the counterterrorism effort. We have joint task forces that deal with counterterrorism as well as counter-terror-financing. The U.S. government has provided us with a lot of technical assistance. We share a lot of information, as we do with a number of other governments.
BLITZER: The Associated Press has an article that's moving now on the wire quoting an Islamist Al-Qaeda-related web site as saying that your statement on CNN here earlier this week on my program, ‘Wolf Blitzer Reports’, indirectly resulted in the murder of Paul Johnson.
"The stupid Saudi government took the initiative and announced, by the Americanized tongue, Adel Al-Jubeir, that it will not submit to the conditions of the mujahedeen, claiming that it doesn't negotiate with terrorists."
That's the statement. You said on my program that Saudi Arabia, like the United States, does not negotiate with terrorists.
AL-JUBEIR: That has been our history from the very founding of the Saudi state. We have never negotiated with terrorists. We don't intend to do so. I believe what the al Qaeda people were trying to do is trying to justify a murder that is unjustifiable under any faith or under any principle of humanity.
BLITZER: And you will not be deterred by this kind of warning?
AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely not. They have murdered our people. They have murdered our guests. They have taken people hostages. They have set off explosions. We have not been deterred. If anything, it reinforces our resolve to go after them and to rid the country with the evil. And with the help of God, we shall.
BLITZER: In making the announcement that they had beheaded Paul Johnson, they also issued a chilling warning of other Americans working in Saudi Arabia, 30,000 or 35,000 -- it's unclear exactly how many. Among other things, they said this. They said, "As for the Americans and most importantly the unbelievers and the criminals who are fighting Islam, this is a lesson for them to learn. For whoever comes to our country, this will be their punishment." Clearly, a lot of Americans are getting nervous about working in Saudi Arabia -- a lot of other Westerners, as well. The U.S. Department of State, as you well know, has issued since June -- in fact, earlier, they've been saying the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer travel to Saudi Arabia. Private American citizens currently in Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to depart. If they do depart, is that a win for the terrorists?
AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely. Their objective is to scare foreigners into leaving Saudi Arabia. They believe that if foreigners leave Saudi Arabia, and in particular Americans and other westerners, that our economy will be crippled and our government will be weakened. But that logic doesn't hold. We are determined to ensure the safety of our citizens and our residents. We will do everything in our power to ensure they are safe. We will also do everything in our power to go after this deviant group and to eliminate it from our midst. There can be no doubt about the outcome of this battle. We will win it.
BLITZER: How safe, though, are those Americans, the other Westerners, the other non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia right now, supposedly having been targeted and seeing what happened to Paul Johnson?
AL-JUBEIR: It is a difficult time, but it is a manageable time. We believe that we still have control over safety in Saudi Arabia. We don't believe it has reached a panic situation yet. Nor do we believe -- and we hope it won't. We will be very vigilant in trying to ensure the safety of everybody in the Kingdom. And we will be merciless when we go after the terrorists who try to wreak havoc on our society.
BLITZER: Can Saudi Arabia continue the export of oil, its primary export, without these Westerners, without these Americans?
AL-JUBEIR: Yes. Over 90 percent of the employees of Saudi Aramco are Saudi citizens. The oil facilities are very, very secure. We continue to produce oil. There has been no reduction in our oil production. And quite the contrary, we have increased oil production.
BLITZER: There is an article in today's front page of ‘The Los Angeles Times’, which makes a very serious allegation against Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan for that matter, two U.S. allies in the war on terror. Let me read a little snippet from the article. It says, "By not cracking down on bin Laden, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia significantly undermined efforts to combat terrorism worldwide, giving the Saudi exile the haven he needed to train tens of thousands of soldiers."
It goes on to say, "Saudi Arabia provided funds and equipment to the Taliban, and probably directly to bin Laden, and didn't interfere with al Qaeda's efforts to raise money, recruit and train operatives, and establish cells throughout the kingdom, commission and U.S. officials said."
That was today's article in the Los Angeles Times, and I'd like you to respond.
AL-JUBEIR: Absolute nonsense. We've been through this many times. Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in the early '90s. We froze his assets. We declared him an outlaw. When he went to Afghanistan, we tried to negotiate with the Taliban for his extradition. When that failed, we reduced our ties with the Taliban, as well as our assistance to the Taliban.
Remember, Wolf, a lot of countries gave money to help Afghanistan rebuild after the ravages of the Soviet occupation, including the United States and Europe. America alone, I believe, gave almost $200 million in 1999 and the year 2000 to help Afghanistan. Does that mean that the U.S. was supporting bin Laden in any way, shape or form?
We see these charges or these myths being perpetrated about Saudi Arabia in order to malign our country, and then we see them later on shattered: the myth of whisking the bin Laden family out of the U.S. when airspace was closed; the myth of the Saudi government giving money to al Qaeda; the myth of Princess Haifa giving money to two of the hijackers. All of these were dispelled by the 9/11 Commission, and I believe this myth will also be dispelled when the report comes out.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to be speaking later on ‘Late Edition’ with two commissioners, two of those 9/11 commissioners, and we'll ask them about this as well.
Two statements in recent weeks made by leaders of Saudi Arabia, suggesting that Israel or Zionists or Jews were responsible for these terror attacks in Saudi Arabia. As you well know, Crown Prince Abdullah said on Saudi television, "Zionism is behind it. It has become clear now, it has become clear to us. It is not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionists' hands are behind what happened." And on May 1st, Prince Nayef, the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, suggested that there was a link between Israel and al Qaeda. "al Qaeda," he said, "is backed by Israel and Zionism." Now, people hear that, they have to wonder what's going on.
AL-JUBEIR: I believe you and I spoke about the Crown Prince's statement and the reason for him doing it, a couple of weeks ago on your show. There are a number of people in the U.S. who call for change in the government of Saudi Arabia, the dismemberment of Saudi Arabia, taking Saudi out of Saudi Arabia. And that objective is the same objective as we hear coming from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. So that was the intention. With regards to Prince Nayef's statement, I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it.
BLITZER: He was quoted in the Arab News, which is a Saudi newspaper, as saying -- and I'll read directly from what it says. Speaking to top military and civilian officials in Jeddah last Saturday, when four terrorists went on a shooting spree in Yanbu, killing five Westerners and a National Guard officer, the Crown Prince said he believes Zionists were behind most of the terror attacks in the Kingdom. But in a press statement after the attack, Prince Nayef blamed al Qaeda, and this is what Prince Nayef said: "I don't see any contradiction in the two statements, because al Qaeda is backed by Israel and Zionism."
The suggestion has been made by a lot of Saudi observers that, yes, Crown Prince Abdullah, the defense ministry, the security services are working closely with the U.S., cooperating in the war on terror, but the interior ministry, which oversees the religious police -- that there are a lot of sympathizers there within the religious police to al Qaeda. They're giving uniforms, police uniforms, they're giving warnings, they're giving information to these al Qaeda operatives, and Prince Nayef might be behind this.
AL-JUBEIR: I think that's in the realm of fiction. It's very easy to obtain police uniforms and military uniforms in Saudi Arabia, just as it is here. You go to an Army surplus store in the U.S., and you can get any uniform that you want. With regards to vehicles, what we found in the Al Muhaya compound is they took cars to a farm, painted them to look like police cars, and then used them in the attack against the compound. The interior ministry is on the forefront of the war against terrorism. It is our mabaheith that is pursuing the terrorists, and they have been very successful at it, and they're getting better at it. The notion that our security services are infiltrated by the terrorists really doesn't hold. If that were the case, they would not be going after soft targets, they would be going after government installations. We haven't seen that.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but do you believe there's a connection, a link between al Qaeda and Zionists?
AL-JUBEIR: No, I personally don't think so. I believe that al Qaeda is run by bin Laden. It's spread over 50 or 60 countries. Their objective is evil. Their objective is to overthrow the government in Saudi Arabia and do damage to America and other countries.
BLITZER: Adel al-Jubeir, thanks for joining us. Good luck to you...
AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... and to everyone in Saudi Arabia as well.
AL-JUBEIR: Appreciate it. Thank you.