2002 Transcript

Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz interviewed for 'Time' magazine
'Time' magazine excerpts from the question and answer session with Scott Macleod

Time: What is the truth about Saudi-American tensions?

Crown Prince Abdullah: How can a relationship that has been strong and solid for over six decades be questioned like this? I sense that there is some resentment about the relationship and of the Kingdom that I frankly don't understand. Somebody must be trying to drive a wedge. I want to make something very clear: there is no enmity at all between the Saudi government and the American government, or between the Saudi people and the American people.

Time: Has the U.S. military worn out its welcome in Saudi Arabia?

Crown Prince Abdullah: There have been no discussions whatsoever on the matter. We don't think about raising this issue at all. If and when the time comes, it will be discussed by both governments.

Time: Do you support or have reservations about America's war on terrorism?

Crown Prince Abdullah: I want to begin by saying that America is a friend. America's interests are as important to us as our own interests. America cannot fight this war alone. It will be a tiring, difficult, and expensive war with human and material losses and it will cause the number of America's enemies to multiply. America cannot be the sole policeman of the world. I have a recommendation to make: every nation, under UN auspices, should sign an international agreement and commit to combating terrorism and drugs. If a country refuses to combat terrorism and drugs, it should be punished.

Time: Do you favor extending the war to Iran and Iraq, countries in President Bush's "axis of evil"?

Crown Prince Abdullah: I do not believe that the war on terrorism applies to Iran and Iraq. If you have a situation [of Iranian or Iraqi terrorism], it is the result of small fringe groups, and not government policy.

Time: Is Iran a destabilizing influence?

Crown Prince Abdullah: Iran is contributing to stability in the Gulf region. In the past there were tensions, but these have been worked out. Iran is a large nation, and it is in its interests and in the interests of all the Gulf countries to calm matters and maintain stability.

Time: What would you say to an American plan to use force and change the regime in Iraq?

Crown Prince Abdullah: I have given an answer on this matter to President Bush, and that is where my answer will remain.

Time: You have criticized the Bush administration on the Palestinian issue, but what is your solution?

Crown Prince Abdullah: I respond with one word: justice. We have a means and procedures to reach a solution: the Tenet Plan and the Mitchell Report. On both sides are human beings who have emotions that affect their actions and reactions. On one side, we have people, including children, who are being humiliated, killed, whose trees are being uprooted, and whose land is being confiscated. This leads them to lose hope and to react. On the other side, we have people who are subjected to constant violence and begin to lose hope as well. As a first step, we can separate the two sides and introduce peacekeepers. And then it will be time to pressure both sides to return to the negotiating table.

Time: Who should apply this pressure?

Crown Prince Abdullah: If the United States assumes the primary role, it will give the process great credibility and effectiveness. If the U.S. has no desire to contribute to this, it should let others do it.

Time: Do you agree that the violence is Arafat's fault?

Crown Prince Abdullah: Arafat cannot control all the Palestinians. He especially cannot control them while they are being shelled and killed by the Israelis. The Israeli people may not be the guilty ones. Responsibility lies squarely with the person who gave the orders. You cannot break out of this cycle of violence when the Prime Minister of Israel orders planes to drop bombs and sends tanks to invade villages.

Time: What happens if Arafat is eliminated either physically or as a peace partner?

Crown Prince Abdullah: May God spare us. It will shake the Arab and Muslim world and destroy the credibility of anyone who was involved in this move. Forever.

Time: Has September 11 revealed ills in Saudi society?

Crown Prince Abdullah: What occurred was a horrific crime that changed the world. Bin Ladin is a deviant who hates America. He hates us too. He used the resentment that built up against America in the Arab and Muslim world to try and justify a cruel and inhumane crime. If he were a true Muslim, he would have committed himself to live by the tenets of his faith.

Time: Some say Saudi-style Islam and your powerful religious establishment created the climate for bin Ladin.

Crown Prince Abdullah: This is not correct. Unfortunately, extremism exists in every faith and in every nation. In the Kingdom, there was extremism by some scholars, but we see a toning down of it, and I expect that this trend will continue. Our senior religious scholars took strong public positions that had a big impact on the more extreme scholars. Some human beings have narrow or closed minds, regardless of their faith and they do not apply the noble principles of their faith.


Time: Have your investigations of Al-Qaeda indicated a threat in the Kingdom?

Crown Prince Abdullah: We take the issue of security very seriously. Until now, we have not unearthed an Al-Qaeda network inside the Kingdom.


Time: Is the Arab house in order?

Crown Prince Abdullah: No. I suggest that we look inward and reflect on our condition, and refrain from blaming outsiders or fictitious notions of colonialism. What we see in the Arab world is division and disunity. If there was more cohesion, we would have better security and stability, and would receive greater respect from the rest of the world.


Time: What are Saudi Arabia's biggest challenges?

Crown Prince Abdullah: We had to absorb the cost of the Gulf War as well as the weakness in the oil markets throughout the last decade. This affected our economy. We are trying to streamline and diversify, attract investments, and develop mineral resources besides oil, like gold and phosphates. We are also dealing with the water shortage and the growth in population.


Time: Shouldn't you be running rather than walking?

Crown Prince Abdullah: It is difficult to change quickly unless you have to. There is less disruption to the social balance. We are blessed that we can afford gradual and continuous change.