2004 Transcript

Adel Al-Jubeir quoted on NPR discussion on Saudi charities

And I'm Melissa Block.
Saudi Arabia says it's taking more action to halt terrorist financing. It is dissolving a large Saudi-based Muslim charity and folding its assets and those of other groups into a national commission with strict financial oversight. The news follows a weekend attack by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen in the kingdom. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

With each new attack, Saudi officials speak of their determination to stamp out terrorism.  Their latest announcement, made in Washington, is aimed at preventing terrorists from siphoning off charitable donations. Adel Al-Jubeir, the foreign affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, said the kingdom is dissolving the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and setting up the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.

Mr. ADEL AL-JUBEIR (Adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah): What we've done with the new entity, the national commission that's being set up, is basically make sure that there's only one vehicle through which charitable contributions abroad, private Saudi charitable contributions abroad, flow in order to make sure that there's no confusion by any government around the world as to who's legitimate and who's not.

KELEMEN: US and Saudi officials are also asking the United Nations to freeze assets of overseas offices of Al-Haramain in the Netherlands, Albania, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.  And the Treasury Department's Juan Zarate says the US is adding the former head of Al-Haramain to one of its terrorism blacklists.

Mr. JUAN ZARATE (Treasury Department): It was under the cloak of charity that Aqil Aqil used the Al-Haramain organization to benefit himself and al-Qaeda, to support al-Qaeda-related groups like Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya and al-Qaeda-trained fighters.

KELEMEN: US officials acknowledge that today's announcement is not a panacea. Adel Al-Jubeir pointed out that it didn't cost much to blow up residential compounds in Riyadh last May.  He insisted that, since then, Saudi security forces have made progress in the fight against terrorism, despite the weekend attack on oil workers in Khobar when gunmen killed 22 people in a hostage-taking and shooting spree.

Mr. AL-JUBEIR: It is obvious that they're trying to target the oil industry and they're trying to scare people--in particular, foreigners--into leaving the country.  They believe that if this happens, the Saudi economy will collapse, and then the Saudi government will be ripe for the plucking.  The problem with that logic is it's wrong.

KELEMEN: The Saudi official echoed an argument that Bush administration officials often use, that terrorists have no public support and are becoming more desperate, hitting soft targets.  And he insisted oil industry installations are secure and hard to penetrate.  Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington