- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Saudis invite Jews

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan was embarrassed by a posting on his country’s tourism Web site that said his government barred Jews, just as it is promoting a program to encourage visitors to the desert kingdom.

Prince Bandar said the information was removed from the site (www.sauditourism.gov.sa/sct) after news reports pointed out the posting.

He also criticized a member of Congress, Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, who denounced Saudi Arabia as a “backward country” after learning about the information on the tourism Web site. Prince Bandar said Mr. Weiner’s comments “spread doubt and mistrust.”

“It is very difficult to see the Saudis as anything other than a backward country with backward ideals, and this reaffirms that,” Mr. Weiner said.

“I think the administration should take a hard look at this Web site and decide whether a country that has these policies should be considered our ally.”

Prince Bandar said he was upset with Mr. Weiner’s statement because the Saudi Embassy had already informed his office that the posting on the Web site was a mistake.

“I am surprised that Representative Weiner would issue a statement after his office was advised by an office of the embassy that the concerns he raised were not the kingdom’s policy,” the ambassador said.

“As this time, we should be working toward greater understanding and better relations between the United States and the Middle East. Representative Weiner and his actions only serve to spread doubt and mistrust.”

The embassy, in a statement, emphasized that Saudi Arabia places no religious restrictions on who may enter the country. It does prohibit Israeli citizens, but has lifted a restriction on other foreigners who have Israeli visa stamps in their passports.

Embassy spokesman Nail al-Jubier told the Internet news service WorldNet Daily, which first reported the story Friday, that Israelis are barred because Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

But, he added, “We have no rules regarding Jews or, for that matter, any religious believer.”

Mr. al-Jubier said he was “stunned” when he saw the tourism Web site.

“That is not our policy,” he said. “The tourism board is looking into how it got there.”

The original posting said Saudi visas would not be issued to Israelis, people who “don’t abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behavior,” those “under the influence of alcohol” and “Jewish people.”

The Saudi tourist board removed the “erroneous information” and said it “regrets any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Georg Milbradt, governor of the German state of Saxony, who addresses the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on the enlargement of the European Union.

• Nasrine Gross, Afghan advocate for women’s rights and a professor at Kabul University, who addresses the Asia Society on women’s rights under the Afghan constitutional process.

• Kiyohiko Fukushima, chief economist for Nomura Research of Japan, who addresses the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on currency cooperation in East Asia.

Tomorrow

• Husain Haqqani, a former adviser to Pakistani prime ministers, who addresses the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Thursday

• Ambassador Bisera Turkovic of the Austrian headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; Katharina Vogeli, executive director of the Swiss Foundation for World Affairs; Ambassador Theodor Winkler, director the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF); and Andrzej Karkoszka and Istvan Gyarmat, also from DCAF. They discuss post-conflict reconstruction in a forum at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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