2004 Transcript

Adel Al-Jubeir speaks of hostage situation on CNN
Crown Prince Abdullah's Foreign Affairs Advisor Adel Al-Jubeir was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN's 'Late Edition' concerning the U.S. citizen taken hostage in Riyadh.

ADEL AL JUBEIR, ADVISER TO PRINCE ABDULLAH: We're looking at the tape. We're looking at the situation. Our people on the ground are assessing it. It would not be appropriate for me to comment about what steps we would or would not take in response to this, but we're determined to ensure the safety of the hostage and, hopefully, and God willing, we'll be able to free him and restore him to his family.

BLITZER: What do you make of this videotape? Does it look authentic? Certainly the pictures of Paul Johnson unfortunately look very authentic.

AL JUBEIR: It shows the cruel and inhumane face of the enemy that we're dealing with. It shows the fact that they have total disregard for human life and for respect for human life, for dignity. It shows the barbarism of this entity that we're dealing with and what we're up against.

BLITZER: Do you know who's holding him? Which group is holding him?

AL JUBEIR: The people who have been holding him have claimed responsibility for holding him. They claim to be the al Qaeda group in Saudi Arabia. I'm not so sure that has been verified yet. We can't just simply go by what appears on Web sites because in theory, anyone could put anything on Web sites.

BLITZER: The declared position of the U.S. government is always that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. What is the declared position of the Saudi government?

AL JUBEIR: Our position over the past 30 years has been the same. We don't negotiate with terrorists. We don't negotiate with hostage takers because then you open the door up to more hostage taking and more terrorism.

BLITZER: I assume that means you're not going to release any of these prisoners they want you to release in exchange for Paul Johnson?

AL JUBEIR: I believe that assumption would be correct but it is something that we have to assess. We have to see what it is that they want. And we have to see what the best means is of freeing Mr. Johnson and restoring him to his family in good health.

BLITZER: I assume also there's very close coordination between your government and the Bush administration.

AL JUBEIR: Absolutely. America has people on the ground. We're working this issue very closely together. We have been, for the past year, we have a joint task force that's working on the ground in terms of counterterrorism.

BLITZER: What can you tell us in terms of how Saudi Arabia will make a decision on how to respond to this very, very disturbing set of demands? How does your government go ahead? Do they have a cabinet meeting, does the crown prince make that decision? Who makes that decision?

AL JUBEIR: I believe as with every government decisions are made based on the facts, decisions are made based on the input of experts on the ground. One has to verify, authenticate the message of the tapes, individuals. Do the people who have made this demand, in fact, hold the person hostage. Then we go from there. A political decision is made. I'm sure the decisions will be made in consultation with the United States because, after all this is an American individual that we're dealing with.

BLITZER: I want you to respond to the Council on Foreign Relations report that came out today. Among other things, they concluded that Saudi Arabia has not fully implemented its new laws and regulations and because of that opportunities for the witting or unwitting financing of terrorism persists and they also say there is no evidence that Saudi Arabia has taken public punitive actions against any individual for financing terror. Those are strong statements from this Council on Foreign Relations report.

AL JUBEIR: Which is not correct. The Council on Foreign Relations did not visit Saudi Arabia. We had a team from the financial action task force at the G8, which is the world's premiere body tasked with dealing with issues of money laundering and terror financing. Come to Saudi Arabia, do an evaluation of our systems. They have issued a draft report which will be presented in two weeks. In this report they give Saudi Arabia very high marks. With regards to laws not being implemented, that's frankly not correct. With regards to individuals not being prosecuted because of terror financing, that is also not correct. The financial action task force of the G8 in their reports say that Saudi Arabia has five people who have been prosecuted for terror financing as well as a number of other individuals whose assets have been frozen.

I am very disappointed in the Council on Foreign Relations for putting out a report without ascertaining the facts.

BLITZER: What about the State Department's advisory to Americans living in Saudi Arabia, working in Saudi Arabia to get out?

AL JUBEIR: This is really a decision that the U.S. government will have to make based on assessments it makes. Ultimately, the individuals or the families living in Saudi Arabia will have to make the decision themselves. We believe that the situation in Saudi Arabia is under control. We believe that we are doing our best to go after the terrorists and kill them or capture them. We still have a ways to go, without a doubt, as we can see from the random killings that have taken place over the last two weeks. But we don't believe it is a cause for panic.

BLITZER: Adel Al Jubeir, thanks for joining us. Good luck.