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IN THE NEWS - December 6, 2002: Saudis Dispute Terror Critics - 2002-12-06

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

This week, the government of Saudi Arabia announced measures to prevent money from reaching terror groups. The Saudi government also disputed accusations that it has failed to do this in the past.

The administration of President Bush welcomed the Saudi announcement. The Bush administration had suggested recently that Saudi officials do more to fight terror.

Adel al-Jubeir is an advisor to Saudi Arabia’s acting ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah. Mister al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has been criticized unfairly. He said his nation is the victim of a campaign that borders on hate.

Mister al-Jubeir condemned al-Qaida as a terrorist organization. He said Saudi Arabia is a target for Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader was born there. He is thought to have plotted the attacks on America of September eleventh, two-thousand-one.

Mister al-Jubeir noted that fifteen of the nineteen suspects killed in the attacks were Saudi citizens. He said al-Qaida did this on purpose to harm Saudi ties with the United States.

A new report describes steps the Saudi government says it has taken since the September eleventh attacks. They include ordering financial investigations of Saudi organizations that give money to people suffering or the needy. Saudi officials created a government agency to supervise these charities. Saudi Arabia says it is establishing a process to follow the movement of charity money. It also is developing rules for sending charity money to other countries.

Saudi charities receive as much as four-thousand-million dollars every year. Of that, Mister al-Jubeir said only about ten percent is sent out of the country. He said the Saudi government has not found evidence that charity money is reaching terrorists. He also said it was possible that terrorists may have received some money mistakenly or through other groups.

Some reports say the Federal Bureau of Investigation had examined charity payments made by Princess Haifa al-Faisal. Her husband is the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Saudi Arabia says it suspended activity in thirty-three bank accounts containing more than five-million-five-hundred-thousand dollars. The money belonged to three people. One of them, Wael Hamza Julaidan, served as a director for a Saudi charity. He is suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden.

Mister al-Jubeir said Saudi officials have questioned many people about al-Qaida. He said more than two-thousand people have been questioned since the attacks in the United States. He said more than one-hundred are still being held.

Both the United States Treasury Department and the State Department praised Saudi cooperation in the campaign against terrorism. Political observers say the Bush Administration wants Saudi Arabia’s support if there is a war with Iraq.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.