Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal highlighted the strength of Saudi-US relations and discussed the Kingdom’s efforts to reform its educational curricula in an interview today with ABC Good Morning America co-anchor Diane Sawyer.In the interview, Prince Saud stressed that Saudi-US relations are healthy, and that there is no rift with the United States over Iraq. Last month, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz characterized the US war in Iraq as an “illegitimate foreign occupation.”
Prince Saud said that the King’s statement is “not attacking” the US, “and it’s a pity that the media concentrated on this particular issue. It’s talking about legitimacy, not legality,” he explained. “And that is something that even the secretary-general of the UN mentioned before.”
Prince Saud reassured Sawyer that there is more that binds the US and Saudi Arabia together than there are differences between them. “The King is a very frank and very honest person,” he said. “He says what’s on his mind, and he’s a believer that friends are people who tell each other the truth and not those who accept what is said by others.”
Asked if US troops should be pulled out of Iraq, and when, the prince replied, “This is up to the Iraqi government.”
Prince Saud also denied recent reports in the media that Saudi Arabia cancelled a White House dinner. “That is absolutely untrue. There was a visit planned, but the timing of it was not appropriate, and that was the reason for our delaying it. It’s not cancelled, it’s delayed.”
Commenting on the Kingdom’s fight to eradicate extremism, Prince Saud underscored Saudi efforts to remove inciteful material from its educational curricula.
“We are trying as best as we can,” the prince continued. “We are changing curricula. Now it is legal to apply the international curricula in our schools, and we do this for the benefit of the people. We want an education that develops a person of understanding and capability to meet the competition that he will face from his counterparts in other countries. This is the way to go.”
Asked why it has taken so long for the Kingdom to crack down on clerics who are inciting young men, Prince Saud responded, “Do you put someone in prison for an opinion … Or do you try to work to convince the people, to make them a fringe element of society?”
On Iran, Sawyer mentioned that according to Prince Saud, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised the Saudis that he would not weaponize his nuclear technology.