MR. RIHAB MASSOUD: Good afternoon. If I sound groggy, it’s because I haven’t slept since 2:00 this morning, so bear with me. It’s indeed a sad day.
Let me first begin by thanking the president of the United States and the people of this great country for their expressions of condolences at the loss of our beloved leader, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz.
When one of our brothers passes away, we look to God as his companion and savior. And we are reminded in the Sura of the Dawn, which instructs us:
O peaceful soul! Return towards your Creator. Happily and with pleasure, join the flocks of my servants and enter Paradise.
King Fahd’s 23-year legacy as the fifth benevolent leader of our people in our recent history is that his reign will be remembered as a time of modernization and diversification at home: and, abroad, as demonstrating an abiding allegiance to be an active member in the world of nations – promoting cooperation and peace among all countries.
One of his first official engagements on behalf of the Kingdom was as a participant in the San Francisco conference that established the United Nations in 1945, and which Saudi Arabia was a founding member. His legacy in working with the nations of the world will be remembered for its active engagement and cooperation on matter of great and small.
In the 1990s, King Fahd turned his attention to the development of the state with a very ambitious reform program. In 1992, he established the basic law and constitution of the kingdom based on the holy Qur’an; and these reforms included also the Shura Council.
The further development of the kingdom was outlined in 2003 when King Fahd set out a wide-ranging program of reforms in the political, economic and legal system. He established both a nongovernmental and a governmental human rights organizations, and broadened popular participation by calling for an equal role for women in the development of Saudi Arabia.
While we mourn the passing of our visionary leader and friend of the Saudi people, we feel secure and proud in our new leader, a leader who is known very well to the Saudi people and to the entire world, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
In his capacity as a king, he will have a strong partner in his chosen crown prince, Minister of Defense Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
In the spirit of King Fahd, King Abdullah believes Saudi Arabia and our people have a destiny to modernize our society and to play an important role on the world stage. King Abdullah has traveled the world as a public face of our country, promoting peace for the Middle East and security for the international community. He, like King Fahd, recognizes Saudi Arabia, an important place in the world.
His relationship with the American people is strong and committed. Just a few months ago, he visited with President Bush in Crawford, Texas, and again renewed our desire to be an ally, both economically and in the war on terrorism.
During his tenure as crown prince, the relationship between our two nations was challenged as never before on September 11th, 2001. The response was certain and unwavering.
Saudi Arabia will not stand for an evil cult using the Islamic faith as an excuse for mass violence. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all peaceful nations as strong allies. As the reign of King Abdullah begins, we look for that policy to continue, and for the relationship between our two great nations to become even stronger.
Saudi Arabia is the home to a quarter of the world’s known oil supplies. I would like to reassure you my government pledges to continue King Fahd’s legacy of providing the globe with a stable and a secure source of energy. As we say in Arabic upon the passing of our beloved ones, “Inna lillah, wa inna ilayhi rajioon” – “We are created by God, and to him we shall return.”
I thank you. I’ll take some of your questions.
QUESTION: How can we expect the US and Saudi relations to change now that Abdullah has become a king? And who will be in charge of US-Saudi foreign policy from now on?
MR. MASSOUD: The relationship between the two countries began 60 years ago, and we expect it to continue and to grow. Saudi foreign policy has always been determined by the king and by the leadership, executed by the foreign minister.
King Abdullah, as a matter of fact, has issued his second decree asking all Cabinet members to remain in their posts until further notice.
QUESTION: Following up on that question, you said that you can continue on oil.
MR. MASSOUD: Yes.
QUESTION: Will there be any change in policies there with production or piping?
MR. MASSOUD: No. As we have stated so many times, Saudi Arabia is committed to supply all the world needs of energy as long or as much as – or to the best of our capability, with a reasonable price. What we have always disagreed with is the instability in the oil market.
QUESTION: With condolences on the death of the King, and a slight modification of subject, you spoke of your disdain for terrorism using Islam as its cause; has your government been able to contribute anything on the investigations into the latest round of terrorism, attacks and terrorism in London and Egypt? Saudi has been working so hard on this with the United States.
MR. MASSOUD: We have, as a matter of fact, and I know that we have been in constant touch with the British as well as with the American entities here.
We will continue to do so. I know that, for instance, we have made a commitment that questions to be answered in no longer – or in no more than two hours to indicate how serious we are taking this last case in Britain. So any quote, unquote, “inquiries,” that we have received from the British have been answered in less than two hours.
QUESTION: And have you turned up any suspects, any information that might lead to more arrests?
MR. MASSOUD: I don’t know, to be honest with you. Since it is an ongoing case, I am not really at – privy to the details, I guess, you know, of the case.
QUESTION: Following on that same topic, there have been press reports that the Saudi government has been cooperating with British authorities specifically in regards to reports that there were telephone calls between individuals in Britain and Saudi Arabia. Can you elaborate on the kind of help that the Saudi government has given with specific reference to those calls and perhaps what other information is known at this hour about those calls?
MR. MASSOUD: I have seen those press reports, but I really – I am not familiar, you know, with the details of it. But, again, I can reassure you that we will cooperate, as we have done so; whether in identifying phone calls or identifying receivers and/or individuals who have made, you know, those calls, and on and on. And then, of course, going from there and establishing if there are any links between them and the case.
I thought I saw a hand here.
QUESTION: The same question; whether you knew anything about that telephone –
MR. MASSOUD: I don’t know any.
QUESTION: When will the new ambassador get here?
MR. MASSOUD: Prince Bandar is supposed to be coming here to say his farewell, as a matter of fact, in September, the beginning of September. Once he departs, the new ambassador will take over and will assume the post.
Thank you very much indeed.
QUESTION: Thank you.