During an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat today, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, stated that the purpose of his forthcoming visit to the United States of America is to convey the greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard, to U.S. President Bill Clinton on the occasion of his reelection for a second term.
Prince Sultan confirmed that he will, in addition, hold talks with U.S. officials on a number of political and economic issues within the framework of the existing strong Saudi-U.S. relations, but made it clear that there would be no signing of any contract during his visit. Pointing out that Saudi-U.S. relations are balanced and based on reciprocal respect, Prince Sultan referred to the importance of the Kingdom as holder of huge reserves of crude oil and stated: “We are anxious to enhance our economic partnership with the U.S. because we believe that such a partnership serves our mutual interests”.
Concerning the Arabian Gulf area, Prince Sultan said that its security situation is not only stable but better than in most of the world. He underscored the importance of good relations between the GCC member states and Iran, which is a Muslim country and a neighbor. This, he said, requires goodwill and non-interference in domestic affairs. Cooperation comes not through force, but through mutual respect and refraining from provocative acts. Prince Sultan urged Iran to take practical steps to improve its relations with the GCC member states by resolving the ongoing three-island dispute with the UAE.
Concerning the Al-Khobar explosion, Prince Sultan quoted Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz as saying that it would be premature to speak about the outcome of the investigations. Prince Sultan categorically denied, however, that the Kingdom suffers from any problems involving terrorists, and underlined the importance of combating terrorism, calling on international cooperation in this regard.
In reply to a question on the Kingdom’s stand vis-à-vis the peace process in the Middle East, Prince Sultan stated that Saudi Arabia supports just, lasting, and comprehensive peace and security based on UN resolutions and the land-for-peace principle approved at the Madrid Conference.
On the Kingdom’s economy, Prince Sultan stated that not only is it strong but is of immense importance. Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest reserves of oil, which has no competitors in the near future, but fluctuations in oil prices should not be taken as an indication of economic strength or weakness, since oil is not the sole source of wealth in the Kingdom. Prince Sultan observed that the balance of payments attained last year showed a surplus of SR 700 million (U.S. $ 186.7 million) and that the Gross National Product (GNP) for was estimated at SR 510 billion (U.S. $ 136 billion).
Referring to the practice of consultation (Shura) in the light of Islamic values through the Consultative Council, the provincial councils, and other bodies, Prince Sultan stated that the Kingdom is not prepared to imitate other societies for the sake of imitation, but adheres to Islamic shari’ah, and does not accept any value or concept that contradicts Islam’s teachings, including those concerning women and their rights.
Describing the Saudi media as responsible and working within the religious and social values of the country, Prince Sultan praised their positive role in accelerating the development process while preserving the higher interests of the society.