Hours after the September 11 attacks, Saudi Arabia issued a statement expressing outrage for these “regrettable and inhuman bombings and attacks”, which it said contravene all religious values and human civilized concepts. The Kingdom also made it clear that it would cooperate in every way with the United States and the international community in a concerted effort to fight and eradicate all forms of terrorism.
The Kingdom’s leaders emphasized that Saudi Arabia had suffered from terrorist attacks, such as those that killed scores of people in Riyadh and Al-Khobar, and that therefore the nation is fundamentally opposed to such actions and has been engaged in a long struggle to combat terrorism and identify its perpetrators.
Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz on September 13 and again on September 24 spoke by telephone with President Bush and confirmed that the Kingdom would cooperate fully with the United States to find those responsible for the terrorist attacks, saying: “We in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are fully prepared to cooperate with you in every matter conducive to revealing the identity of the perpetrators of this criminal act and bringing them to justice.”
The Saudi government then began a series of meetings with U.S. officials, both in Riyadh and Washington, DC, to map out a strategy of cooperation. Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, acting as a conduit for messages between Saudi and U.S. leaders, visited Washington for meetings on September 19 and 20, 2001, with President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and assured them of Saudi Arabia’s full cooperation. Speaking to reporters at the White House, he said: “Saudi Arabia will do everything in its power to fight the scourge of terrorism. This support comes from a country that has suffered from terrorism and knows exactly what it means.” Later, President Bush told the media: “As far as the Saudi Arabians go ... they’ve been nothing but cooperative.”
Meeting with a delegation from the European Union (EU) in Riyadh on September 26, Prince Saud said the war against terrorism involves not just apprehending the perpetrators but “rooting out the political infrastructure of terrorism that helps terrorists spread their deviant ideologies in the international community.”
King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Riyadh on October 4, 2001, to discuss efforts to combat terrorism. Conveying messages between King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah and President Bush, Prince Saud visited the White House on November 9 and December 7. He also met with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Powell.
As part of the ongoing high-level contacts between the two countries, Vice President Cheney visited Jeddah on March 16, 2002, for meetings with King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Head of General Intelligence Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud. Saudi-U.S. cooperation in the international campaign against terrorism topped the list of topics discussed in the meetings.
On April 25, 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah met with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for what was described by officials from the two countries as “an extremely warm and cordial” discussion of a wide range of issues, including the war on terrorism. Speaking in an interview after the meeting, Prince Saud said Saudi Arabia was “exchanging information [with the United States], squeezing the terrorist organizations of resources to mount any operation and in every way cooperating with the international effort.”
As part of the continuing consultations between the two countries on the campaign to fight terrorism and eliminate sources of funding for it, Prince Saud visited Washington for meetings with President Bush, Secretary of State Powell and other senior officials on May 6, June 13 and July 18 of this year. As usual, cooperation between the two countries in the war on terrorism was high on the agenda of these meetings.
In addition to cooperating with the United States, Saudi Arabia has been working to fight this scourge independently, and through joint efforts with other countries and international agencies. Shortly after September 11, Saudi Arabia joined the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G-20 in order to develop an aggressive plan of action directed at identifying and freezing terrorist assets worldwide.
Saudi Arabia also joined more than 70 countries in ratifying the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, while its central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), introduced broad measures to prevent the flow of funds to terrorists.
In January 2002, SAMA hosted a meeting of banking and law enforcement authorities from 20 Asian countries to discuss ways of coordinating the efforts of their government and banking authorities in combating financial fraud and money laundering. In a statement to the conference, Minister of Interior Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz urged greater cooperation among government and banking agencies and the coordination of their efforts in various countries, and called for a mechanism for streamlining this process. He said Saudi banks and financial institutions have been implementing money laundering measures for many years, but “these have been reaffirmed and upgraded” following the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
In February 2002, the Ministry of Finance and National Economy hosted a meeting of chief executive officers from banks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Speaking to the gathering in Riyadh, Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf urged closer monitoring of lending institutions, saying the September 11 terrorist attacks have brought to the forefront efforts to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism, efforts in which Saudi Arabia has been fully engaged from the start. The Kingdom was in fact one of the first countries, he said, to approve and enact all 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.
Meanwhile, on June 18, 2002, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of seven individuals linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks targeting vital sites in the Kingdom. On the same day, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K. Noble announced that Saudi Arabia had asked the international police agency to arrest 750 people, many of whom were suspected of being involved in terrorist-related activities, money laundering and drug trafficking. This is in addition to 1,207 cases of crime in which the Kingdom has contacted the 179-nation international police organization, seeking cooperation to solve the cases.
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Senior Ulema (religious scholars) Shaikh Abdulaziz Al-Ashaikh issued a statement on September 15, 2001, condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States, saying that “hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts.
The Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council of Saudi Arabia Salih bin Muhammad Al-Luheidan noted that Islamic law and teachings denounce terrorism, and they characterize the killing of innocent people as a barbaric act that is pernicious, shameless and evil. In a statement read on Saudi Television on September 14, 2001, Shaikh Al-Luheidan said: “It is incumbent upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a state governed by the spirit and rulings of Islam, to deplore any criminal and corrupt act, irrespective of whether the perpetrators are Muslims or non-Muslims. Those who are truly versed in the fundamentals and reality of Islam know that such acts are crimes of endless harm.”
As Crown Prince Abdullah has said, Saudi Arabia will continue to cooperate with the United States and other countries “to help identify and track down the perpetrators of the criminal attacks” and eliminate the threat that international terrorism represents to all peace-loving nations.
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