- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

Saudis tackle terror

Saudi Arabia has taken dramatic steps to fight terrorism after ignoring extremism until suicide bombers attacked Saudi targets two years ago, says a study by a major Washington think tank.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that the Saudis are “increasing internal security, making a major effort to track the activities of Saudi religious and charitable groups inside and outside the kingdom, and addressing economic weaknesses.”

The Saudi government spent $7 billion on internal security in 2003 and budgeted more than $8 billion last year.

The study by CSIS analysts Anthony Cordesman and Nawaf Obaid urged the Saudis to accelerate efforts to control corruption, guarantee property rights and modernize police and security forces. They also called on the Saudis to create a more open government.

“The level of corruption in Saudi Arabia is often exaggerated and used to make broad, undocumented charges against the government and royal family. Corruption is, however, a serious problem and exaggerated perceptions of corruption can be as important as reality,” they said.

Saudi Arabia was slow to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and initially refused to believe that most of the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi citizens.

“What Saudi Arabia was still slow to understand, until major terrorist attacks began to occur in the kingdom in May 2003, was that Saudi Arabia faced truly serious internal security issues as well as the need to deal with terrorism outside the country,” the study said.

“Saudi intelligence and security services paid too little attention to the growing and highly visible ties between hard-line Pakistani extremists in the Pakistani [intelligence service] and religious schools, and the impact of Saudi-financed activities in Pakistan and Central Asia, and the number of young Saudi men associated with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.”

The report, titled “The Saudi Counterterrorism Efforts: The Changing Paramilitary and Domestic Security Apparatus,” is available on the center’s Web site, www.csis.org.

Kenya’s AIDS failure

Widespread government corruption in Kenya is causing international donors to hold up money allocated to fight AIDS, the U.S. ambassador in Nairobi said this week.

Ambassador William Bellamy criticized the government for failing to account for money already distributed and warned Kenyan officials that they must end graft or face the loss of more assistance.

“The government of Kenya must change how it spends the money it already has, and it must insist on obtaining results from that spending,” he said in a speech, according to a dispatch from Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Bellamy said the World Bank and the U.N. Global AIDS Fund have tens of millions of dollars allocated for Kenya but will not release the money because of corruption.

As an example of the misuse of international aid, he cited a report that exposed Kenya’s Health Ministry for spending $6.5 million a year to pay for employees who do not exist.

“It is not too much to ask that the ministry stop paying for these unoccupied positions and redirect that funding to real people in real positions,” he told his audience, which included Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori.

Mr. Bellamy added, “Let’s be clear. The money is available and it has been available for quite some time now. … What remains is for the government of Kenya to use that money quickly and effectively.”

Addressing Mr. Awori, the ambassador said, “I urge you again to use all your influence to get this government to start spending responsibly the funds it already has to fight AIDS.”

The disease has killed about 1.5 million in Kenya since 1984. The government estimates that about 1.4 million Kenyans are still infected.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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