Interviewed today on ABC’s weekly television program “This Week with David Brinkley”, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz spoke about on-going cooperation between Saudi and American security forces following the recent Al-Khobar bombing, the current health situation of King Fahd, and relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
In answer to the two specific questions, why the four perpetrators of last November’s bombing were not allowed to be interviewed by American security, and why there had been refusal to widen the perimeter around the Al-Khobar apartment complex, Prince Bandar was adamant that neither statement was accurate, saying: “What’s accurate is there was great cooperation between us ….. the end result was achieved by mutual consent”. Referring to the punishment of those involved in the Riyadh explosion as a Saudi responsibility, he stated: “The families of the five Americans who died ….. at least saw justice being done”. As for security at the Al-Khobar complex, he said: “There was a request that was discussed, plans were made. Nobody knew that at ten o’clock the next evening or the next week, the bomb would go off.” Prince Bandar also pointed out that with the Riyadh explosion using 200 pounds of explosive, no one could have guessed that the next would use, not double, or triple that amount, but 3,000 pounds.
Asked if he knew of any outside connection to the two car bombs, Prince Bandar stated: “With Syria, definitely not”, and added that he did not rule out any other options, remarking that it was “not appropriate to discuss security measures and broadcast to the other bad guys across the region our intentions or how much we know now, but your security people know what we know.”
On the issue of the health of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Bandar commented that after a “down period” he is now doing fine, and reported: “The night of the bombing, I was with him until five o’clock in the morning while he was talking to President Clinton and talking to other officials following the case. Secretary Perry spent about an hour or hour and a half with him discussing these issues.”
Concerning difficulties experienced by western reporters in getting into the Kingdom to cover the bombing incident, Prince Bandar said that this was not true, since the first of these were in the country only six hours after their request. Concerning accusations of anti-westernism in Saudi society, he said that such a thing is not the general trend, pointing out that Americans have been in the Kingdom since the 1930s. Referring to the attacks, he stated: “They are not attacking Westerners. They are attacking us for being your friend.”
In answer to a question on Arab culture being hostile to democracy, and the ensuing discussion on the assumption in the west that democratic nations are pacific and that the Middle East would be pacific if it had more democracy, Prince Bandar, remarking: “The Middle East is a very complex part of the world”, posed the question in return: “If democracy, as you describe it, and freedom of the press, is the panacea, why did people bomb Oklahoma?” He posed a further question concerning violence in Israel, if that nation is regarded as democratic. “Crazy people”, said Prince Bandar, “happen all over the world regardless of the system.”
In conclusion, Prince Bandar reiterated that most Saudis believe that America is their friend, and most Americans believe it too.