- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

Saudis praise U.S. court

The Saudi ambassador to the United States praised the American justice system after a judge dismissed a lawsuit that tried to link two leading members of the Saudi royal family to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“This decision is a testament to the U.S. legal system and to the principles of American justice,” Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said in a statement last week.

Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this month ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove any connection between the al Qaeda terrorist organization blamed for the attacks and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Turki al Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Britain and former head of the kingdom’s intelligence operation.

Judge Robertson also ruled that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction in the case. The lawsuit was filed by the families of those killed in the attacks by 19 suicide hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis.

Prince Bandar said that although the kingdom is pleased with the dismissal of the lawsuit, Saudis still agonize over the attacks that killed about 3,000 people and destroyed the World Trade Center. Saudi Arabia recently has been the target of bombings linked to al Qaeda.

“The people of Saudi Arabia grieve for the loved ones that these families have lost, just as many Americans from all across the country have shared their sympathies and condolences with the Saudi families who also lost loved ones at the same murderous hands of al Qaeda,” the ambassador said.

“I, for one, will never forget that tragic day in September. The shock, the pain and the horror of watching the towers fall will always weigh on my heart.”

He pledged that his government will work with the United States to destroy “this evil cult” of terrorists. “This cancer must be eradicated from the planet by all necessary means,” he said.

Also last week, President Bush’s nominee for ambassador to Saudi Arabia told a Senate hearing that the kingdom is making progress in its fight against terrorism and religious extremism. Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of promoting a brand of Islamic intolerance and allowing certain Saudis to launder money to organizations controlled by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

James Oberwetter, a Texas oil lobbyist, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he will work to promote religious tolerance if he is confirmed to the post.

“Freedom of religion, as we know it, does not exist [in Saudi Arabia], and participation even by some sects of Islam is not allowed,” Mr. Oberwetter said.

U.S. warns Europe

The U.S. ambassador to NATO is worried that the “natural law” of bureaucracy will distort the good intentions of European nations that advocate a small military force to act outside the Atlantic alliance.

Ambassador Nicholas Burns told reporters in Paris that the United States and European Union must seek a middle ground in the dispute over the proposed rapid-reaction force, which would act in crises if NATO refuses.

The plan is supported by Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg, which have opposed the war in Iraq.

“If you create institutions, however small they may be at the beginning, they would grow over time. This is the natural law of all bureaucracy,” Mr. Burns said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, who addresses the United States Institute of Peace. Tomorrow, he meets with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for talks on terrorism, NATO and other issues.

• Professor Klaus Segbers of the Free University of Berlin, who addresses the Carnegie Endowment on Germany’s policy toward Eastern Europe.

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


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