2005 Transcript
 

03/07/2005
Press conference on campaign against extremism
Full transcript of briefing by Crown Prince Abdullah's Foreign Affairs Advisor Adel Al-Jubeir at the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC on Monday, March 7, 2005

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Good-morning everybody.  I would like to welcome you to the Saudi Embassy today.  What I was going to do is provide you a briefing about the major public awareness campaign that is currently taking place in Saudi Arabia to deal with the issue of extremism and terrorism in our country.


Saudi Arabia, as you know, over the past few years has been locked in battle with terrorists and extremists.  We believe, as I have said before, that this battle must be waged simultaneously on three fronts. The first one is to go after the terrorists, to pursue them with vigor, to capture and kill their leaders, to disrupt their supplies, to capture their arms caches, to unravel their safe houses, to prevent them from recruiting our youth.  And we have been very successful in doing so.  As you know, we have captured or killed 18 of the 26 most wanted terrorists on our Most Wanted List, and we will continue to do so.  Our security services are acquiring increasingly sophisticated capabilities and expertise in pursuing the terrorists, and we believe that we have the terrorists on the run.  And God willing, in time we will eradicate this scourge from our Kingdom.

The second front in the war on terrorism involves the financing of terrorism.  And in this area, as you probably know, Saudi Arabia implemented strict financial control mechanisms in our banking system. We have regulated our charities; we have implemented the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force with regards to money laundering, and the eight recommendations with regards to terror finance.  We are in the process of setting up one national entity through which all charitable activity outside Saudi Arabia will be conducted.  And until that entity is up and running, no Saudi charity is allowed to send one riyal outside the Kingdom without strict government oversight.  We have also banned the collection of cash contributions in our mosques and public spaces, which I believe no other country in the world has done.  So we believe that on the financial front, Saudi Arabia has done more than what probably any other country in the world has done.

Which brings me to the third element or the third front in the battle of terrorism, which is the most complicated one, and that is going after the mindset that promotes or condones extremism or violence in a way that is contradictory to the teachings of our Islamic faith or the traditions of Saudi Arabia.  We have in this area adopted a long-term program as well as short-term programs.  We have reviewed our educational curriculums.  We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths.  We are introducing new teaching methods.  We are training our public school teachers in adopting new teaching methods so that we can introduce critical thinking and produce students that are world class.  We have put in place better monitoring of our mosques and our religious schools to ensure that they are not used to promote intolerance or to condone violence.  And the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has dismissed a large number of imams who have strayed, as well as sent a number of those imams to schools for re-training in terms of tolerance and so forth.

What I wanted to talk to you about today is our latest effort, our campaign in our attempts to reach out to our people and to explain to them that extremism and terrorism are not part of our faith; that there is a human cost associated with it.  And we do so in order to try to inoculate them or isolate them from those who try to deceive them into taking actions that are contrary to the teachings of Islam or the teachings of human values, universal human values, regardless of where one happens to be.

The campaign I'm about to explain to you was launched with the international counter-terrorism conference that was held in Riyadh February 5 to February 8.  It is a vast campaign.  I believe it is unprecedented.  It involves a number of our ministries, such as the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the General Presidency for Youth Welfare.  It is multifaceted.

It includes the production of documentaries that talk about the history of extremism and terrorism in the region as well as in Saudi Arabia and its impact on people.  It includes talk shows where we bring in our youth to discuss issues of the day.  It includes television advertisements.  It includes cartoons that are designed to appeal to the very young.  It includes billboard advertising, some of which you see here in our auditorium, that you see all over Saudi cities.  It includes lectures and discussions at schools and mosques throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia promoting tolerance, discrediting the views of the extremists, educating people about the true meaning of our Islamic faith, which is a faith of compassion, peace, mercy and love.

And it also includes television ads, advertisements that are running on all of the Saudi TV stations as well as a number of Arabic satellite stations with large audiences in Saudi Arabia, such as the Middle East Broadcasting Center, Al-Arabiyah, Future Television, and, I believe, others.

And this is not a small campaign.  The TV advertisements, for instance, are running up to 25 times a day.  This campaign will last several weeks.  We are in the midst of it.  The campaign even includes ATM machines and text messages on utility bills.  So if you go to a Saudi bank and you want to withdraw cash out of your ATM, you will get a message that basically says:  Say no to terrorism.  Not exactly those words, but the objective is this.

And I wanted to give you a preview of what it is that we are doing, because I believe over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has been criticized unfairly as not doing enough to promote tolerance and to fight extremism or to fight the mindset that fosters or that tries to recruit people towards taking acts that are incompatible with our faith or our customs or our traditions.

If you allow me and bear with me - this will not take too long - we would like to show you a series of the TV spots that are being done.  Television advertisements are done in three phases.  We will show you one example of each phase.  Each phase has several different ads in it.  But to just illustrate the point, the first phase, which is designed to personify and humanize the victims of terrorism, is our first clip.  And this is one that shows a father who lost his son through terrorism.

So if we could play that for our audience, I would appreciate it.

(Video is shown.)

The subtitles - the advertisements are all running in Arabic, so the subtitles were for your benefit only.
The second phase of the campaign is designed to reinforce the first phase, as well as make it clear that terrorism and extremism are not part of our faith, culture or society.  And I would like to show you an example of one of the advertisements that are running in the second phase of this campaign.  So if we could go ahead and play that also.

(Video is shown.)

The final phase is designed to promote values and feelings of national pride, because our people have been mobilized and galvanized in the war against terrorism, and these advertisements are supposed to reinforce that message.  So we will go ahead and show you one of the spots in the third phase.  Can we go ahead and play that also?

(Video is shown.)

That's it, in terms of the advertising, the three phases of the advertising that are being run.  The ads were produced in Saudi Arabia by Saudi companies, with input from companies that may be located in Dubai.  But they are designed to appeal to our home audience, and to reinforce the message of the dangers of terrorism, humanize the victims of terrorism, and to reinforce the message of national unity.

Some of the programs that I talked to you about earlier, such as documentaries that talk about the risk of extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, and its impact on society; programs that talk about, or a series of programs or documentaries that speak to how the Saudi security forces are dealing with terrorism to reassure our public that we are serious in combating and eradicating, God willing, this evil.  We have cartoons for children that are running.  We have a series of talk shows that involve our youth, entitled "Why," that encourages open discussion of the issues of the day.  And we have also other documentaries that are airing on Saudi television.

If you'll bear with me, we'll show you clips from two of the programs that I just spoke to you about.  One is - the first clip will be from a program called ‘The Discourse of Mind and Logic’, which is a series of documentaries about how the ideology of extremism and terrorism was spread to the region and to the Kingdom.  And if we can go ahead and play that clip, I would appreciate it.

(Video is shown.)

The idea was to personalize the victims of terrorism and the impact and the harm that terrorism can bring to all of us, including our children.

The next clip I'm going to show you, which is our last clip, if you will bear with me, is from the documentary called "Why".  And here you will see - in the clip you will see grieving members of families who have lost loved ones to terrorism.  And the goal is to show them that terrorism and extremism are not part of our faith or culture or customs or traditions, and that belief in God and adherence to one's faith are very important for people to overcome adversity, rather than the other way around.  So if we could go ahead and play that final clip.

(Video is shown.)

The documentaries and the talk shows and so forth are usually about half an hour to an hour in length, and they're running on a number of Saudi television stations, as well as Arabic satellite stations.  But we just wanted to give you a snapshot of this.

This public awareness campaign is not dissimilar from the ‘Just Say No’ campaigns in the U.S. or the ‘Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk’ in the U.S., except they are much more intense and much more focused on the issue of the day.  I believe that this is an unprecedented campaign that we have.

We have also put in place a procedure whereby we monitor what is being - or try to monitor as much as we can what is being published in Saudi Arabia and what is being distributed in order to ensure that it does not contain material that is intolerant or that is extremist in nature.  So the Kingdom has had - as I mentioned earlier, received a lot of criticism, we believe unwarranted, for being negligent in not trying to go after the mind-set, and I believe this - the efforts that we have done in Saudi Arabia, as well as our most recent public-awareness campaign, contradict this argument.

And so, having said this, I'd like to stop here and see if you have any questions about this campaign.


Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Could you speak to what the Saudi government is doing to demonstrate that respect for human rights is part of its war on terror?  And specifically, could you comment on the Saudi government's role in holding Ahmed Abu Ali for 20 months and allegations by his family, including an employee of your own embassy here, that he was tortured while in Saudi custody at the request of the United States government?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Yes.  We have always maintained that - torture in Saudi Arabia is illegal.  It has been since the foundation of the Saudi state.  We have laws in place that punish officials who transgress.  There are procedures for how to - on how to deal with detainees and how to question them.  And there have been instances where, when an official has transgressed and a detainee has brought charges against that official, people were punished - including, I believe, many years ago somebody was actually sentenced to death for abusing detainees.  So that's one.

The second point I'd like to make is that we have also set up a governmental human rights entity that looks into or works with other government agencies on setting up standards and procedures for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  This was several years before 9/11.  And we have also set up recently a private human rights organization, whose mission is to receive complaints from people and respond to them.

So this is how we have dealt with it.  With regards to - we have also invited human rights organizations to come to Saudi Arabia and take a look at our prison system and take a look at our procedures for dealing with detainees, and we believe that we are doing a fairly good job in this area.  Does this mean that no abuses occur?  Of course it doesn't.  There are human beings who will transgress.  But where we find them, we charge them and we punish them.

With regards to the case of Abu Ali that you mentioned, he was detained in Saudi Arabia on serious charges.  We were investigating the background of it, as was the U.S. government.  The U.S. government was fully aware of the reasons behind his detention.  U.S. officials visited him on a fairly regular basis, found absolutely no evidence of either physical or mental abuse.  In the end, the decision was made to extradite him to the U.S. because his family wanted him tried in the U.S. and the U.S. government wanted him.  So we handed him over to the U.S.  Before he was handed over, he was examined by four doctors, one of them American and one of them I believe British, who found no evidence whatsoever of physical abuse.

As he was flying back to the United States, he was in the company of an American doctor, who also took a look at him and engaged in extensive discussions with him, and found no evidence of any physical or mental abuse while he was in Saudi detention.  So the argument that he was tortured in Saudi Arabia is preposterous or baseless.

He talked about spending time in - while he was in detention exercising with other inmates, playing soccer with them, I believe.  But at no point in time did he say to anyone, any American official who visited him while he was in detention, or complained to them that he was being abused in any way, shape or form.  So we completely reject that allegation.

QUESTION:  Was he held at U.S. request?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  He was held because he was part of an operation that we believe was very serious.  The U.S. government was informed about his detention.  There may have been other associates with him, but we hold people when we believe that there is a serious crime that may be involved.  We don't hold people because other governments ask us to hold people, if we do not have enough to hold them in the first place.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Back to the human rights issue.  The State Department has criticized Saudi Arabia in its report about human rights and religious freedom.  And actually I'm quoting here from the report:  "There were credible reports of torture and abuse of prisoners by security forces."  And you just said that you deny torture as a means of questioning prisoners.  So are you going to look for those officials who use this torture and maybe punish them?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, to begin with, we take issue with the State Department's Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia.  What I find interesting is that the State Department Report on Human Rights involves virtually every country in the world.  And the only country that gets questioned about the content of that report appears to be Saudi Arabia.  Nobody talks about the other countries in the report, including some of the European countries.

Having said that, we have laws against torture or abuse of prisoners in our country.  We have a history of people bringing charges against officials who have transgressed.  And we have a history of officials being punished.  So the notion that torture or abuse of prisoners in Saudi Arabia is a natural occurrence is not correct, and we take issue with that, and we always have.  And we invite people to come and take a look at how our prison system is managed and how our procedures for dealing or preventing abuse of detainees are in place.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Different tack.  There's been some talk, some intelligence intercepts or reports of intelligence intercepts from al Qaeda talking about possibly targeting of the Saudi oil installations and other infrastructure.  Since your February conference, have you stepped up any - or do have any additional, more intensified steps towards protecting that infrastructure - come out of that conference?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We are always looking for ways to improve the security situation in Saudi Arabia, whether it involves better training of our security forces, whether it involves acquiring better equipment, whether it involves better means and methods for dealing with them.

With regards to the security of the oil fields, the oil fields are very, very secure.  We have stepped up the security of the oil fields beginning in the 1980s, if you remember, during the Iran-Iraq war.  We have stepped up the security of the oil fields after 9/11 in particular.  We continue to step up security in the oil fields virtually on a daily basis.  The oil fields we believe - or the oil installations we believe are very secure.  We have vetted individuals who work in the oil fields to ensure that we don't have any sleepers inside Aramco or other companies that deal in Saudi Arabia.  And so far, thank God, we have had no incidents.

And so we - in response to your question - have we stepped up security - we are always stepping up security.  Will we -

QUESTION:  Did anything come out of this conference that you had in Riyadh in early February, was there anything that came directly out of that, that illuminated some new issues or some new steps you might have taken, that you've taken since then?  Anything at all that came out of that.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  The conference in Riyadh was designed to bring the world together in the war against terrorism.  The Crown Prince strongly believes that terrorism cannot be fought by one or two countries alone; he strongly believes that a global effort is required in order to defeat terrorism.  He also believes that terrorism; and drug dealing, arms smuggling and money laundering are two sides essentially of the same coin, and that the means with which we defeat the terrorists are effective in defeating the drug dealers and the arms smugglers and the money launderers.  There has not been, as far as we know, an international conference of this sort held before.  The idea was to bring people together, experts in security - not diplomats, but experts in security - to talk about practical ways of enhancing the capabilities in the fight against terrorism.  For example, countries sent very senior delegations who deal with these issues.  The U.S. sent a delegation headed by Ms. Fran Townsend, assistant to the President for homeland security.  Great Britain sent very high level delegations, as did fifty other countries.

The idea or the objective of the conference was not to produce theoretical statements about how bad terrorism is or how we all are committed to fighting it, but to come up with concrete principles.

For example, one of the problems that exists in the war against terrorism within each government has been the issue of communications between various agencies within a particular government that deal with terrorism.  In the United States, for example, you've seen this in the 9/11 Commission Report, the problem of lack of communication between the various intelligence services that deal with counter-terrorism.

We, frankly, had the same problem in our government.  Other governments had the same problem.  So the experts recommended that governments should implement mechanisms that allow better communications between services that deal with terrorism within governments - that's one aspect of it.

Another recommendation, for example, was how do you enhance international cooperation, how do you do it?  The traditional way of communication between governments on security matters is too slow.  We need to do it much more instantaneously.  How does one do that?  Diplomats can't come up with questions - I mean with the answers to this; it would have to be practitioners of the field.  And so the idea was you need to have better communications, more direct and more instant communications between governments in this area.

The Crown Prince proposed that a center be set up to exchange information on an instant basis between governments, and I believe a task force has been set up to look into this.  And this task force will not be composed of, like I said, diplomats - I have nothing against them; I was one myself for a long time - but made up by experts who can come up with ways of setting up a system that works.  It is not meant to replace bilateral cooperation or exchange of communications and information between governments, but rather to enhance it or to create another mechanism.

One of the recommendations of the counter-terrorism conference was to look at - well, let me backtrack.  There were task forces that looked at the origins of terrorism and extremism.  Where does it come from?  Why does it happen?  Is it the mindset?  Is it intolerance?  And part of the recommendations of this task force, I believe - and we have the Riyadh Declaration available for you, I believe, if you would like to pick it up on your way out - was where do you draw the line between freedom of speech and incitefulness?  We need a standard that we all agree on, so that if somebody is punished for being inciteful, the government that punishes this individual doesn't get charged for taking away their, quote, "freedom of speech".  So where are the boundaries?  Let's come up with a standard here.

One of the other task forces looked at the issue of how do you enhance cooperation between security services in combating terrorism.  And again, they came up with their recommendations, which are available on the counter-terrorism website, which you can access directly or through the embassy website or you can look at the Riyadh Declaration that I just talked about.

Other issues that were looked at was the link - how do you deal with the issue of terror financing?  What is the most effective way of cutting off the flow of funds to terrorists?  The FATF recommendations are available that should be implemented.  They have not been implemented by all countries.  Are there other ways of doing so?  How do you deal with the issue of charities?  A lot of governments do not have controls over their charities or don't know where funds go from their charities.  There needs to be more serious effort in this regard.

So those were the areas, really, that the counter-terrorism conference dealt with.  And so it was not an issue of after the conference did we go out and enhance the security of the oil fields.  I think the two are separate matters.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Paul Richter with LA Times.  You mentioned this issue of drawing a line between freedom of speech and inciteful behavior.  How does Saudi Arabia deal with that when you're looking over the media in Saudi Arabia?  You mentioned that part of your program, you're monitoring hateful and extremist speech.  What line do you draw?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We believe that any time you call for or you condone violence, that that crosses the line.  Being disparaging towards people of other faiths is also crossing the line.  Misinterpreting the faith is drawing the line.

For example, if you look at Jim Jones in the United States, he argued that he was a Christian and that what he was teaching were Christian values, but that's not the case.  If you look at the KKK in the U.S., they argue that they were set up on the basis of Christian principles.  What they practice or preach has nothing to do with Christianity.  If you look at the Branch Davidians, while they claim to be a Christian sect, their actions and their language are far removed from Christianity.  What we have here is people who have perverted the Christian faith for their own agenda.

What we have in Saudi Arabia with al Qaeda and others who call or who say these outrageous statements is people who are trying pervert the Islamic faith for their own agenda.  And Islam should not be defined by the actions of deviants and perverts; it should be defined by the actions of the mainstream scholars.  And so where you draw the line is when you see that somebody has gone - has crossed lines, that's where the buck stops, as they say here in America.  And we have better monitoring of our mosques.  When imams preach intolerance or hate towards others, they are dismissed and they are punished.  They are sent for retraining because we cannot tolerate people trying to hijack our faith or to pervert it.

The battle for the mind-set in the war on terrorism, as I mentioned earlier - we have - we go after the terrorists, those who support them, and those who condone their actions.  The third part involves the mind-set, and that's the most challenging and the most long-term part of it, and that's the one that we're working on diligently in order to purge it from our society.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Paul Courson with CNN.  The television spots, I take it, have been running for a few weeks.  Is that correct?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Have you gotten any reaction from the Saudi people?  Are they kind of dismissing it and saying, well, that's not us, that's people from outside the country who this applies to, or are they taking it to heart somehow?  Have you gotten any response?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We are going to be running public opinion polls after the ads, after the campaign is concluded, to see - to test the reaction among the Saudi public.  But if I were to give you an unscientific response, Saudi Arabia has been much more open in the last three years than we have been in the past in terms of discussing these ideas.  I believe very few Saudis are under the illusion that this is not a - that we don't have a problem in Saudi Arabia.  We do have a problem with extremism in Saudi Arabia.  Yes, we acknowledge it.  We do have a problem with intolerance in Saudi Arabia, yes.  But the people who promote extremism and intolerance are a very, very small minority that happens to be very vocal, and whose message gets amplified by the media, especially the media outside Saudi Arabia.

What we're trying to do with this public awareness campaign is to reinforce the true values of our Islamic faith and to educate our public about the horrors of terrorism and the price that victims of terrorism and their loved ones pay in order to counter the messages of hate and extremism and intolerance that a small group of deviants are trying to push on them.

Yes, and then I'll take from there.

QUESTION:  Brian Todd, CNN, also with CNN.  Last summer we reported on some textbooks being used in Saudi schools here and in the Kingdom - a first-grade textbook that had the quote to teachers, "Explain that any religion other than Islam is false, such as Judaism, Christianity, others".  There was a textbook that we got for high schoolers with the quote, "One of the greatest requisites of hating the infidels and not dealing with them is to leave their religious symbols and rituals."  We're told that those textbooks are still being used in Saudi schools.  We're told that by an opposition group, but I wanted to get your response.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  I don't - I can't comment on the textbooks.  I don't know exactly which ones you're referring to.  But what we have is we have looked at our textbooks.  We have found that five percent of what is in the textbooks was frankly very objectionable.  And we have found that about 10 percent of it is questionable.  We have moved the five percent that's intolerable and unacceptable, and we have worked on the 10 percent that is questionable.  That was the first step in revitalizing our educational reform.

The second step involved introducing new textbooks and new teaching methods and retraining teachers in our public schools in order to be able to adopt to these new methods.  We want to be careful about what people say when they criticize in terms of what - if a textbook is available or not.

I am sure you can go into a public school in the United States and find textbooks in a rural area that are outdated and that probably have things in them that they shouldn't have, or that should have been updated.  But that should not be used to define the American educational system as a whole.  That's just not fair.  We are working very hard on upgrading our educational system.  We are working very hard on retraining our teachers.  And we are doing so because we believe that if we can produce world-class students, we can produce world-class managers and workers, and we will end up with a world-class economy.  It is in our national interests to do so.  And education for Saudi Arabia is a priority.  It is one of the largest items on our national budget, and we will continue to work to ensure that we take intolerance and extremism out of our schools, not only in the textbooks but also involving some teachers.  It's inevitable, when you have over 100,000 teachers, that some of them may be rotten apples, but you have to find them and you have to deal with them.  If it's out of ignorance, you educate them.  If it's intentional, you remove them.  There is nothing to gain for us by allowing people to teach extremism or intolerance to our young because then we pay the price later.

I promised here.

QUESTION:  Wendy Jones, NBC.  On Lebanon, is the Syrian proposal for a partial pullout something that's sufficient or acceptable to the Saudi government?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Can I hold that question?  I'll take it, but I just wanted to see if we can finish the items about our public awareness campaign.  But I'll definitely come back to you.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Ira Teinowitz from Advertising Age.  To use your example of "Just Say No," there was criticism in America of the "Just Say No" campaign as being sort of a short-term campaign that really didn't go to the challenges, et cetera.  You're talking about this campaign running about four to five weeks, if I understand correctly?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  No, it's longer than that.

QUESTION:  Well, what are you - but you're saying that you're already in the second or third phase of it.  How long is the campaign going to run?  What are you going to follow it up with?  And how are you going to keep this up, or what do you feel you need to do to keep this up?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, the three phases in terms of advertising are running in two weeks, two weeks, two weeks, so that's six weeks.  The billboards and so forth are - you put them up and you see what the reactions are.  We will be testing the impact of this campaign on our public when it's over in the next two or three weeks and assess what else we can do; whether we continue or whether we make adjustments to it.

The objective is not to just have a one-shot deal and then you sit back and relax, because it has to be sustained.  The documentaries that were produced and the talk shows that were produced hopefully will encourage producers at the TV stations, whether it's in Saudi Arabia or outside, to continue producing programs that take on this mind-set or that challenge this mind-set.  So no, this is not envisioned as just a one-shot deal where it has a beginning and an end and that's the end of it.  We will see where else we can - whether - what parts of it to continue, what parts of it to enhance, and what parts of it - and what parts perhaps need to be added to it.  For example, during soccer matches - I mentioned sports events - during halftime, there would be times where security forces would come out and families of the victims would come out so that everybody in the stadium is aware of the fight against terrorism and the fight against extremism.

But to answer your question in a nutshell, this is not a one-shot deal.  We will continue to see what else we can do.  We may not continue it in the same format.  We may adjust it a little bit.  But I can't tell you exactly how we will pursue it until we assess the effectiveness of it.  And the individuals in charge of it in Saudi Arabia will have to make that determination once they gauge public opinion about this.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Ron Dagony, Globes Newspaper Tel Aviv.  How does Saudi Arabia regard Palestinian groups like Islamic Jihad, Hamas and so forth?  And does Saudi Arabia consider, establish relationship with Israel –[off mike]?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  I'll get back to that question after I answer the campaign?

QUESTION:  Right.  Okay.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Okay.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Dave Montgomery, Knight-Ridder.  How do you assess the current terrorist threat right now? You have explained all of these massive public awareness campaigns, and the government’s extensive crackdown in the last three years.  You could see them though embed themselves and try to hide and mount some pretty flashy attack later.  How do you assess things right now?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, we believe we have them on the run.  We believe that we have - we know that we have captured or killed 18 of the 26 people on our "most wanted" list.  We have broken up cells.  We have disrupted their finances.  We have unraveled their safe houses.  We have disrupted their ability to recruit people.  We have taken out the top two or three echelons of their leadership.  We believe that their ability to strike is much more limited than what it was a year or two years ago.  But we're not resting on our laurels.  We still believe that there is a danger out there. We are convinced that the war against terrorism is going to be a long-term war, that it requires vigilance, and our attitude is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Excuse me.  Steve Weisman with The New York Times.  I wonder if you could address the distinction, though, between terrorism and use of violence to overthrow an oppressive situation that is invoked in some cases that others call terrorism, such as the insurgency in Iraq and violence in Palestinian areas or attacks on Israelis, which the Israelis call terrorism?  I mean, does that come into the conversation at all, that Saudi Arabia is having now?

And secondly, slightly related, I wonder if you could address whether or not you ever considered showing any of these ads on Al-Jazeera.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  The issue of definition of terrorism is a complicated one from a political perspective, so the ability to get unanimity in the world on what terrorism means is almost impossible because, as you pointed out, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.  The United Nations has defined terrorism as any time innocent civilians are killed, and that's the definition that we have adopted.

At the international counter-terrorism conference held in Riyadh, the issue of defining "terrorism" was avoided for that very reason.  We didn't want to have a dialogue about what is acceptable, what is not acceptable.  Any time innocent people are killed, irrespective of where they are killed, it is terrorism.

When you look at the - if you look at - on the issue of liberation movements and what have you, I would imagine that that would depend on the circumstances.  But from my personal perspective, any time you kill innocent people, irrespective of what the objective is, you are a terrorist.

QUESTION:  And on Al-Jazeera?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Oh, I don't know if they're running on Al-Jazeera.  I'm not sure.

Any other questions about this, the campaign?  Okay, and then you had your question.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  The Syrian proposed withdrawal, pull back of troops from Lebanon, is that sufficient?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  There we have two things.  We have the Taif Accords, which required Syria to pull back into the Bekaa Valley, and then to withdraw from Lebanon at the invitation of the Lebanese government.  We also have UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which requires all foreign forces to leave Syria.  We have heard from President Assad of Syria that Syria will withdraw its forces outside of Lebanon, in fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, and in compliance with the Taif Accords.

We have heard from the Syrian ambassador in Washington that Syria intends to do this within the next two or three months.  I believe that this would fulfill the requirements.  The United Nations Secretary-General is sending his emissary Mr. Terje Larsen, who is a very capable and experienced individual, to the region to discuss the details with governments, including Syria and Lebanon, and to report to the Security Council in April on whether or not this - how this is going to be brought about.

The situation is not as easy as people think.  There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account, in particular the desire not to create a security vacuum in Lebanon and not to create instability in Lebanon.  But that should not be a cause for delaying any withdrawals.  There has to be a complete withdrawal in order to fulfill the UN Security Council resolutions, and I believe that the Syrian government has been clear that it will comply with that.  So now the question becomes, how do you implement it and what timelines do you use to do that?  And frankly, I think it's too early - until the discussions take place on these matters, which I expect will begin this week, it's really too early to say - to pass judgment on it.  But I believe that a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is inevitable.  The Syrians have said they will withdraw, and that we - we just have to wait and see how everything is worked out.

STAFF:  Last question.

QUESTION:  There's 1559, the Security Council resolution that calls for disarming Hezbollah, and the Palestinian question, too, and there is the Taif Accord.  In Saudi Arabia, are they with 1559, which is dismantling Hezbollah and resistance, or do you think Taif Accord is enough?  Because here in the U.S., you know, they want full implementation of 1559.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, the Taif Accords called for the dismantling of all militias in Lebanon.  The Hezbollah militia was dismantled in the Bekaa Valley, but remained in the south in response to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.  So in a sense, the 1559 and the Taif Accords are really complementary to each other.  There is no contradiction between the two, and fulfilling 1559 is fulfilling the Taif Accords.  The idea is to remove all foreign forces from Lebanon, the idea is to dismantle all militias in Lebanon, the idea is to bring about peace and stability in Lebanon, and this is what we believe needs to be accomplished.  And if that is accomplished, then you have fulfilled the principles of the Taif Accords as well as the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

QUESTION:  Would you mind saying this in Arabic for --

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  That's okay.  Thank you.  Maybe outside.  Maybe outside.

QUESTION:  Maybe outside.  Thank you.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Okay.  Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION:  Sir, one more question, on oil prices?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Oil prices.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Do you expect or foresee OPEC or Saudi Arabia doing anything to curtail the –[audio break] --

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  [audio break] -- policy over the past thirty years of trying to maintain stability in the oil markets.  When we see shortages, we increase production in order to prevent a rapid increase in prices.  And when we see a crash in prices, we try to reduce production in order to prevent a collapse in prices.

We believe that high prices hurt consumers in the short term and producers in the long run.  They hurt consumers in the short term because they slow down economic growth.  They hurt producers in the long term because they slow down demand growth.  We believe that low oil prices hurt producers in the short term by depriving them of income and hurt consumers in the long term by increasing waste and inefficiency, and accelerating demand growth that producers may not be able to meet in future years.  But what we've seen, having said that, in the last few years is an explosive growth for crude oil, in particular in China and India, in the United States.  What we have seen is a lack of an infrastructure worldwide to deal with oil.  And we have warned of this for the past two or three years.  Our oil minister has said that the world needs to invest in the infrastructure of oil in order to prevent shortages from occurring.

For example, you can produce all the oil you want, but if you can't refine it, it doesn't translate into lower gasoline prices or lower home heating oil prices.  If you can't ship it, you can't get it to the refineries.  And if you can't store it, the global infrastructure for oil as we see it now is getting to the point where it is fairly stretched out, and I believe that's what's driving a lot of the increase in the price of crude oil.  That's one factor.

A second factor has to do with the lack of refining capacity in the United States and the multiplicity - or the multiple standards for gasoline that America has.  So that you don't have enough refineries to satisfy domestic demand, and you have so many different and complicated standards for gasoline to make it inefficient for someone to build a refinery elsewhere and ship gasoline to the U.S. market.  And that drives up the price of gasoline at the gas pump, which in turn pulls up the price of crude oil.

Another factor that we have is the issue of political risk.  People look at the situation in Iraq, they see potential instability in places like Nigeria or, prior to that, Venezuela, we went through the issue of Yukos in Russia, terrorism in Saudi Arabia.  And that puts a fear premium on crude oil.  And so these are the factors that we believe are driving the price of crude oil to the level at which it is now.

We don't see shortages in the physical supply of crude oil, but we do see shortages in the refining capacities, in the shipping capacities and what have you.  And unless those are addressed, I believe that the expectation that prices will drop significantly are unrealistic.  We may see - at these levels we believe the price of crude oil is unrealistically high and it should come down somewhat from the levels that it's at now, but we need to be patient.

We will continue to produce the oil.  We have assured our customers that we will make oil available to them.  We have approximately two million barrels of spare capacity.  We are adding to that spare capacity in order to make sure that in the years ahead, there's enough crude oil available should people want it.  But like I said earlier, we can ship you all the crude oil you want, but if you can't refine it, it's not going to translate into lower gasoline prices.  That's, frankly, an issue that the United States will have to deal with.

So I hope that answers your question.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia is not going to increase its capacity?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We are … Saudi Arabia is increasing its capacity as we speak.  We have about two million barrels of spare capacity available right now, and we have a program to add another million or a million-and-a-half barrels over the next - I believe - year or two years.  And we have another program subsequent to that to continue adding to our capacity.  That’s been our policy for the past thirty years and it will continue to be so.


     

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