2003 Transcript

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal interviewed on ABC's 'Good Morning, America'

CHARLIE GIBSON: We're going to turn first to our newsmaker of the morning, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who yesterday met with President Bush trying to get those classified 28 pages of the congressional report on 9/11 released, and President Bush refused. 
His Highness, the prince, is joining us this morning from McLean, Virginia. Your Highness, it's good to have you with us again.

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL: Thank you, Charlie. It's good to hear from you.

GIBSON: Those who have seen the deleted 28 pages of that report on 9/11 say it implicates Saudi Arabia in helping finance the attacks. Why would you want something like that released?

AL-FAISAL: Well, this is the problem. You and I haven't seen it, and it is being used to cast aspersions and insinuations against Saudi Arabia. We want the report published, not only in order to clear the good name of Saudi Arabia, but if there is real information about terrorists, these are people that we arrest and bring down to the dock and bring to trial, and we want to know.

GIBSON: You flew halfway around the world to make that case to the president, and he said, no, that he would not release those 28 pages, even before the meeting. Do you feel that your arguments were even considered? You didn't even get a hearing before he said no.

AL-FAISAL: No, I got a hearing and we had a good meeting with the president, and he had his case too, remember. He worries about lives that would be compromised, he says, that - if he releases the information, because it would give details of ongoing investigations. And we believe him, that he has his reasons for that; so do we.

GIBSON: Your Highness, you know this is a very hot political issue in this country, and some members of the Intelligence Committee, who have also argued to get that report released, have talked about the way it does involve Saudi Arabia. I want to play for you just a brief clip from Senator Bob Graham, who's running for the Democratic nomination for president, what he's had to say, and then I'll ask you about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) U.S. SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (D-FL): In my opinion, there's compelling evidence in the 28 pages that one or more foreign governments was involved in assisting some of the hijackers in their preparation for 9/11. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: Now, when he says "one or more foreign governments," no secret that he's talking about Saudi Arabia. If those 28 pages, Your Highness, were public, how would you refute the evidence that your government was involved in financing the hijackers?

AL-FAISAL: Well, I'm not running for an election, but I want the news to come out so that the truth will come out. These terrorists are killing our people, are fighting in our country to reverse the order of the country there. We want the truth to come out. This is why we want it published and not to just have speculation of people running for office.

GIBSON: But there are many people, Your Highness, who believe that until 9/11/2001, that your government was trying to buy peace with extremists through charitable contributions and those charitable contributions eventually went to finance the attacks.

AL-FAISAL: That's speculation. What is the proof of that? Who are the ...

GIBSON: I apologize, we have lost, apparently, the video to His Highness, the prince, Al-Faisal, in McLean, Virginia. We'll try to get it back, and if we can't, we'll finish up this interview in just a moment ... And with apologies to Prince Al-Faisal, we lost the video there from McLean, Virginia. It froze up.  We now have it back, Your Highness, and I appreciate you staying with us.

When we got interrupted there, I was asking you about the fact that a lot of people feel that until 9/11, two years ago, that some people felt that your government was trying to buy peace with extremists by giving them charitable contributions and that some of those charitable contributions had financed the 9/11 attacks, and I'd asked you about that.

AL-FAISAL: This is a ridiculous accusation. Where is the proof of this? I mean, this is interpolated. It indicates issues that have nothing to do with the present circumstances.  This is what we are facing: aspersions, innuendoes, insinuations. And this is why we want the truth to come out. Who's afraid of the truth? We are not.

GIBSON: Are you very confident that the contributions your government was making weren't used to finance the attacks?

AL-FAISAL: Our contributions, Saudi Arabia:  of course, we are sure that it is not. It is a morbid speculation that links us to the disastrous events of September 11 … 

GIBSON: Because so many ... 

AL-FAISAL: … and this is the reason ... 

GIBSON: I'm sorry. Because so many people in this country say, "Look, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia." That, to them, is prima facie.

AL-FAISAL: But, Charlie, this is exactly the design of the terrorists. This is why they wanted to do it with 15 Saudis, to drive a wedge between our two countries, to do harm to both our two countries. We are fighting a battle together and in that battle, we need the confidence and the trust of each other in order to win the war. We have done everything against the terrorists - every day almost, we have people called and questioned. We have brought information here that has saved lives not only in Saudi Arabia but in America. How can anybody accuse Saudi Arabia of being in collusion with these people? How can we collude with somebody who wants to kill us?

GIBSON: One other point, Your Highness: There was a man named in the 9/11 report, a man by the name of Omar Al-Bayoumi, who is in Saudi Arabia now. He was in San Diego two years ago, and some feel that he was financing two of the terrorists -- two who were on the plane that flew into the Pentagon and U.S. officials have wanted to question him. I know that point was raised yesterday in Washington. Will the Saudi government permit U.S. questioning of Omar Al-Bayoumi?

AL-FAISAL: Well, you questioned him before and let him go. The British questioned him together with you again, and let him go because they had no proof. We questioned him and let him go because we had no proof. If you want to question him, you're welcome. We have a task force in Saudi Arabia who's working together on this, including Americans and Saudis, and you're welcome to question him any time.

GIBSON: All right, Your Highness, I appreciate your being with us. Thanks ever so much. Good to talk to you again.

AL-FAISAL: Thank you for having me here.