- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

DALLAS A purported request by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah that no women be allowed to engage in air traffic control duties affecting his flights to and from Texas last week has diplomats scurrying and some professional aviation officials seething.
The prince met with President Bush at his Crawford ranch in Texas on Thursday and Friday and took side excursions to Houston and College Station, where he visited the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, named for the former president.
According to the regional manager of RVA Inc., the firm that operates the control tower at Waco's Texas State Technological College airport, representatives of Prince Abdullah made a request of the airport manager that no women be allowed on the ramp and that they also not talk to pilots on the prince's jet.
Ruben Gonzalez, the RVA official, said that though it was "an unusual request we never had one like it before we didn't do anything out of the ordinary. We just did our jobs."
Mr. Gonzalez said that while a female tower manager was on the shift just before the prince arrived on Thursday morning, she stepped aside and two male air traffic controllers took over.
The Dallas Morning News, which first reported the story in its morning editions yesterday, quoted an unnamed Federal Aviation Administration official in Texas as calling the Saudi demand "an outrage."
Prince Abdullah, the official was quoted as saying, "is in our country and should adhere to our rules."
State Department officials, FAA spokespersons and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, denied that such a request had been made, adding that if it had been made, they were not aware of it.
In an interview with Houston television station KHOU-TV, Prince Saud said: "I don't know where this news came from, I can say, without going back to our people, that it is absolute nonsense that they would do something like that."
"We have received no request from either the Saudis or the U.S. State Department that we provide any special services" for Prince Abdullah's visit, said FAA spokesman Roland Herwig.
Yet the purported request has angered many air traffic control officials.
"I don't think his request should have been passed on," said Mark Pallone, a regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, adding: "Our controllers are all qualified. We don't qualify people based on sex or religion."
Mr. Pallone said the Saudi male-only request was passed along from the Waco airport to three FAA stations along the prince's route to the Waco approach control center and the Fort Worth and Houston en route centers.
Authorities in the Houston control center, he explained, "refused to comply" with the request. The Fort Worth center posed no problem, Mr. Pallone said, because an all-male crew already had been scheduled.
But at the Thursday morning landing in Waco, he said, a male controller took charge of the plane, replacing the scheduled female controller.
Prince Saud told one interviewer that half of those on Prince Abdullah's jet were female "hostesses."
"The role of women in Saudi Arabia is undergoing tremendous transformation," the Saudi foreign minister said. "They make up half the population. They are needed to bring the population to its full capacity."
Only in recent years has the U.S. government refused to adhere to some traditional Islamic demands involving American military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia. The White House just recently decided that U.S. Air Force women stationed in Saudi Arabia no longer had to wear traditional Muslim garb when they left their military posts.
The uproar surrounding Prince Abdullah's purported request has generated considerable attention in Texas, dominating radio talk shows with often-heated comments.
"It's just one more example of the United States kow-towing to the Arab world for their oil," said one woman on a Dallas talk show.
"I wonder how he treated Mrs. Bush at Crawford," snapped another.
The White House said yesterday that it had no knowledge of the purported request by the Saudi prince and had no comment on the matter.

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