2003 Transcript

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal interviewed by Katie Couric, NBC 'Today'

KATIE COURIC: Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, met with President Bush on Tuesday. The prince pressed the president to declassify 28 pages from the recent congressional report on 9/11, pages that apparently show a Saudi connection to the hijackings. After the White House meeting, I had a chance to sit down with the prince and I asked him if he was disappointed by the president's decision not to make the pages public.  (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRINCE SAUD: Well, obviously we are disappointed, because it doesn't give us an opportunity to respond to the charges accusing us of the 
most horrendous of things. But the president explained his position that this would jeopardize ongoing investigations. And I take his word for it. 
I understand.

MS. COURIC: Apparently in these classified pages it contends the Saudi government has, through contributions to Islamic charities, supported terrorist organizations, either unknowingly or with a wink and a nod.

PRINCE SAUD: We had presented the report -- (inaudible) -- to the government and to any interested parties, and we explained all the measures that we have taken in order to assure that the contributions would not go to any ill-doers.

MS. COURIC: But wasn't that after September 11?

PRINCE SAUD: Well, before September 11, who knew about it? Many of the contributions that went to them came from Americans. Nobody knew about the source of financing. But now everything is controlled.

MS. COURIC: Let's talk about -- for a moment, Prince Saud, let's talk about Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi Arabian national living in San Diego, someone I know you're aware of. The report talks about the fact that he was supporting two of the hijackers and they were both Saudis living in San Diego. Was he an agent of the Saudi government?

PRINCE SAUD: Absolutely not. He was investigated for a long time by the United States and set free. He departed. He was investigated before 9/11 and after 9/11. Today we heard from Dr. Rice that they're interested in questioning him.

MS. COURIC: Will you produce him?

PRINCE SAUD: I am sure that he himself would want to be cleared of any suspicion and he will be more than happy to respond to this.

MS. COURIC: What was uncovered about his relationship with these two individuals who were involved in the September 11 hijacking on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon?

PRINCE SAUD: He knew them. It was discussed with him. They would try to corroborate that he is linked with them. They found him innocent of any charge and they let him go. 

MS. COURIC: Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabians. Pure coincidence?

PRINCE SAUD: Design, not coincidence -- design, and designed by the terrorists and the mastermind himself, bin Laden.

MS. COURIC: To direct anger toward Saudi Arabia?

PRINCE SAUD: He wants exactly this to happen between our two countries, that 15 Saudis have done this horrendous deed. Now we will be following his dictates if we let him drive this wedge between us. We want to prove him wrong. We want your assistance to prove him wrong. But we cannot respond to these charges unless we know what they are.

MS. COURIC: So, in closing, how can you convince people listening that, in fact, you are true partners in the war against terrorism?

PRINCE SAUD: We just tell them look at the truth. If there is an accusation, then say it out loud. Accuse Saudi Arabia of facts, not aspersions. We cannot respond to insinuations. We can respond only to facts. What are the facts that accuse Saudi Arabia? If the truth comes out, we have absolutely nothing to fear. And we have absolutely no uncertainty that the judgment of the American public will see that Saudi Arabia is not only a friend of the United States but an ally in the fight against terrorism.