Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Saudis deny being slow to respond

RIYADH BOMBINGS A foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah bin-Abdulaziz stressed the attacks were the work of al-Qaeda and hit out at critics in Washington

AFP , WASHINGTON

Saudi Arabia on Friday reiterated its intention to work closely with the US to fight terrorism, and hit out at critics seeking to blame Riyadh for recent suicide attacks.

Commenting on the three suicide bombings in Riyadh Monday that killed at least 34, including eight Americans, Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin-Abdulaziz, reiterated to reporters at the Saudi Embassy in Washington the attacks were the work of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

He hit out at criticism by US officials, including the US ambassador to Riyadh, that the kingdom had been unresponsive to specific US requests to step up security at the expatriate housing complexes targeted in the attacks prior to the suicide bombings.

"There has been a lot of criticism leveled at Saudi Arabia recently," said al-Jubeir. "I believe that a lot of it is unjustified."

Al-Jabeir was particularly critical of those US officials levelling anonymous attacks in the press at his country's vigilance.

"I still find it surprising," he said, "that we have ... anonymous officials who claim that we haven't done what we say we have done.

"I urge those officials, if they want to be serious, if they want to be credible, to stand next to me and tell me that we haven't done what we say we have done ... and I will accept that criticism."

"Monday morning quarterbacks," he said, "always enjoy the benefits of 20-20 hindsight."

Al-Jubeir acknowledged that "we share part of the blame for the criticism because ... there are a lot of things that we have done and have not talked about ... [and] when you don't tell people what you are doing, people assume that you haven't done enough."

Saudi Arabia "has been a strong ally in the war against terrorism for a very simple reason: this terrorism is directed at us," said al-Jubeir. "We are convinced that the United States and Saudi Arabia are the two countries that are in the crosshairs of this murderous organization called al-Qaeda."

Saudi Arabia is "determined to fight them," he said. "We have pursued them relentlessly and mercilessly since the mid-1990s. We have succeeded in many areas. We have not succeeded in others."

"But the bottom line," said al-Jubeir, "is ... we have made great strides over the years in enhancing, in broadening and in deepening out counterterrorism cooperation.

"Have we succeeded? In large part, yes ... Have we failed? Yes. On Monday, we failed. And we will learn from this mistake. We will ensure that it doesn't happen again," he said.

But he quickly mitigated that, saying, "Can we ensure that something like this will not happen again? I don't think we can. Are we determined to confront it and do whatever needs to be done? You bet we are."

The US and other countries with presences in the kingdom were meanwhile taking matters into their own hands.

The US Embassy in Riyadh said 60 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had arrived to help investigate the suicide attacks.

Their stay "is open ended," said John Burgess, embassy counselor for public affairs.

A British police team also arrived in Saudi Arabia Thursday, while Australia said it, too, was sending police officers to help with the investigation.

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