- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 17 (UPI) — A Saudi prince Friday denounced his country's policy of granting Lebanon loans and accused its prime minister, Rafic Hariri, of being a thief.

Prince Sultan bin Turki, a nephew of King Fahd, said the Saudi government was disbursing money to Hariri's government at a time when a large section of the Saudi people was suffering poverty.

In a statement received by United Press International in Geneva, Hariri said the Saudi government should have spent the money lent to Lebanon on its own citizens, especially after Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, had visited poor neighborhoods in Riyadh.

The reference to Abdullah led some analysts to suspect that rivalry between Sultan's Sudairi branch of the royal family and the Faisal branch to which Abdullah belongs lay behind the criticism.

The analysts were also struck by Sultan lining up with Prince Walid bin Talal, whom he is known to dislike. Walid is an adversary of Hariri. As well as being involved in Saudi politics, Walid, whose mother was Lebanese, is believed to harbor ambitions to succeed Hariri as prime minister.

Hariri, a billionaire who made his fortune as a contractor in Saudi Arabia and holds Saudi as well as Lebanese nationality, is close to Prince Abdullah.

Prince Sultan accused Hariri of having pocketed past loans granted by Saudi Arabia, instead of spending the money on public projects in Lebanon.

Sultan said he feared a new Saudi loan of $700 million to Lebanon would end up as he claimed a previous loan of $500 million did, being spent by Hariri on his personal affairs, including the purchase of a Boeing 777 worth $250 million.

Comparing Saudi government services to its nationals to the grants given to Hariri's government, Prince Sultan said:

"The royal family disburses some 10 million Saudi riyals ($2.6 million) in charity to the Saudis while it grants hundreds of millions of dollars to the servant thief to buy fancy private planes."

Hariri robbed Saudi Arabia, Sultan said, "while he is still stealing from his own country, Lebanon."

He also charged that Hariri resorted to despicable means to incite greediness in people.

"Such nasty techniques are not those of a statesman but of a contractor and an entrepreneur who follows his innate greed," the statement said.

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