- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Saudi aid to Darfur

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan says his country is responding to the needs of black African villagers in the Darfur region of Sudan, where government-backed Arab militias have been on a rampage of rape and murder for more than a year.

He said his government has pledged $10.7 million in humanitarian aid that will be distributed through the Saudi Red Crescent Society. The funds are earmarked for food and medicine.

“The Saudi people heed the call of international relief organizations when we can be of assistance financially and, more importantly, medically,” the ambassador said this week.

“We hope these funds help the Sudanese feed their families and provide the urgent medical care many of them need.”

More than 500,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million have become refugees in their own country, according to U.N. estimates.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Embassy announced a radio campaign in 19 U.S. cities to publicize the conclusions of the September 11 commission report that vindicated Saudi Arabia of accusations that its government supported terrorism.

The advertisements cite the commission’s findings that the Saudi government had no connection to Osama bin Laden‘s al Qaeda terrorist network, that the Saudis disrupted a 1998 plot to attack U.S. troops and that no Saudi citizen was flown out of the United States before the skies were reopened after the 2001 attacks.

“These are the facts that your own independent commission has said about Saudi Arabia. You make up your own mind,” said embassy spokesman Nail al-Jubeir.

The commission criticized Saudi Arabia as a “problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism.”

Bin Laden and 15 of the 19 terrorists in the September 11 attacks were born in Saudi Arabia.

The ads are scheduled to begin airing Friday and will continue through Sept. 6. Mr. al-Jubeir said the ads will not be run during the Republican National Convention from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

The radio spots will be broadcast in Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Kansas City, Kan.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Portland, Maine; St. Louis; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington.

Venezuela’s vote

Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez has spent much of his career in Washington defending his president, Hugo Chavez, against charges of anti-democratic behavior. This week, however, is different.

The ambassador is proclaiming a “new day” for U.S.-Venezuelan relations after Mr. Chavez’s victory in the recall referendum on Sunday.

Preliminary results show that he was supported by about 58 percent of the voters, and foreign observers certified the balloting as fair. The political opposition said the outcome was rigged and are demanding a recount.

“The vote proves once again that Venezuela is a vibrant and functioning democracy. Today, with its transparency and numerous checks and balances, the Venezuelan electoral process stands as one of our nation’s crowning achievements,” Mr. Alvarez said.

“Today is a new day for Venezuela. I believe it can also be a new day for U.S.-Venezuelan relations. We look forward to constructing a new relationship — one based on mutual respect — with the U.S. government.”

New at U.N. center

Veteran television journalist David Smith has been named acting director of the United Nations Information Center in Washington.

In his 30-year career, Mr. Smith has served with the British news service Reuters and has covered the United States for Britain’s Independent Television Network. He also has reported from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

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

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