- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

Tabloid terror

Prince Turki al-Faisal enjoyed jousting with British tabloids during his service as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in London, although the popular press occasionally went too far.

Prince Turki, who will become the Saudi ambassador to the United States in the fall, was angered by one recent headline in a tabloid story about perceived political turmoil in the desert kingdom.

The headline said: “Crisis in the crucible of terror.” That was a reference to the extremist form of Islam preached in Saudi Arabia that has inspired some Muslims to commit acts of terrorism.

Prince Turki told the Sunday Times of London that such comments ignore the facts that Saudi Arabia has become a target of terrorist attacks and that Saudi intelligence officials have been helping their Western counterparts.

“This is a very insulting description of the kingdom, which has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Prince Turki, who served 24 years as head of the Saudi intelligence service before his London posting, recalled the tabloids being a problem from his first day on the job in January 2002.

“I will even miss the media. They have always been a challenge for me,” he said with a laugh.

“Shortly after I came to London, I received a telegram from my superiors, saying: ‘Why is the British press still attacking Saudi Arabia? We must do something about it.’

“I left it for a couple of months, and then I replied: ‘Having followed the British press, you should not feel they are being so harsh on us. You should see how they treat their own royal family and their own government!’”

‘Steadfast ally’

The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Clinton mourned the death of Saudi King Fahd as the loss of a “steadfast” U.S. ally but predicted that the new king, Abdullah, will pursue reform and expand the “friendship with the United States.”

Wyche Fowler, ambassador from 1996 to 2001, said, “The sad news of his death allows us to reflect anew on how much the strong U.S.-Saudi relationship and Saudi political stability grew out of his initiatives and policies.”

Mr. Fowler, in an article posted on www.mideasti.org, the Web site of the Middle East Institute, said, “From the U.S. perspective, the late king should be remembered gratefully as a steadfast ally who played an important role against communism, for Arab-Israeli peace and for stability in the [Persian] Gulf.”

He recalled that King Fahd supported U.S. efforts to back the Afghan uprising against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. That campaign also saw Osama bin Laden rise to a popular figure in the resistance and later use that influence to promote terrorism against both the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Fowler noted that King Fahd persuaded his Arab leaders against imposing sanctions on Egypt for the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. King Fahd also promoted a plan that would offer Israel recognition in return for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

“After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in what must stand as one of his most courageous decisions, Fahd invited U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia to help defend the kingdom and liberate Kuwait against the advice of members of senior leadership and in the face of vehement opposition from many religious leaders,” Mr. Fowler said.

He praised King Abdullah as a “leader of integrity, experience and wisdom … committed to continued reforms in his country and expanded friendship with the United States.”

Wrong dates

Embassy Row yesterday incorrectly listed the dates of two press conferences at the National Press Club.

Retired Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu of the East African Legislative Assembly, the legislative arm of the East African Community, and Proscovia Salaamu Musumba, a member of the Ugandan Parliament, will appear Sept. 6 at 1 p.m.

Karsten D. Voigt, coordinator of German-North American cooperation in the German Foreign Office, will hold a press conference Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.

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

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