Throughout the two and a half centuries of its existence, the Saudi state has faced many challenges, and had many obstacles to overcome. Historically, the two major setbacks in its progress were in 1818 and 1891 when adverse forces attempted to undermine the Saudi rule and stability. Through commitment to Islam, its principles and teachings, and its heritage, and with the strong support of the people, the Saudi state overcame these and other obstacles to become stronger than ever.

For the modern Saudi state, the sixty-fourth anniversary of whose unification we celebrate on September 23, 1996, one major obstacle that had to be faced was the death of its founder, the legendary King Abdul Aziz, in 1953. With his passing a number of internal and external issues concerning the continuity of the state had to be addressed. Since then, the responsibilities of ruling have been carried out by his sons in turn, Saud, Faisal, Khalid and Fahd, in a smooth transition of authority, even through traumatic events such as the assassination of King Faisal in 1975. Over the years, the same Islamic principles and values have prevailed.

King Abdul Aziz not only founded the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on these principles and values, but established the system of political institutions. Additionally, he set up the social and economic foundation that has enabled Saudi Arabia to achieve security, stability and massive development.

One aspect of this has been meticulous long-term planning and the implementation of a series of development plans that cost more than a trillion U.S. dollars. These plans included specific objectives geared to serving the needs and ensuring the historic rights of its citizens. Moreover, the institutions that are in place guarantee the consensus of the rulers and the ruled, through an exchange of opinion at all levels.

The result is that Saudi Arabia's vibrant economic, commercial and banking sectors, buttressed by a well educated and motivated work force, are breaking ground in new directions. All of this has further bolstered the Kingdom's security and stability and enabled it to become an active player in international issues such as the Middle East Peace Process, the liberation of Kuwait, the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and humanitarian aid worldwide.

Today, the world has been facing a major challenge in the increasing threat of terrorism. The recent bombing attacks in Riyadh in November 1995 and in Al-Khobar in June 1996 were a severe shock to the Saudi people and to the international community, that this should occur in a country with such a high level of security and political, economic and social stability. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly expressed its condemnation of terrorist acts wherever they take place, and whoever the perpetrators, and it has been working tirelessly in the collective international effort to fight terrorism.

It is the responsibility of all of us, governments and people, to work together to face this greatest of challenges in our era. The Saudi government and the Saudi people will continue their efforts to support world peace and security, and will not allow such acts of terrorism to compromise their cherished values, principles and strong beliefs.

Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States

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