- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Embassy discovered

The normally quiet embassy of the United Arab Emirates in a peaceful diplomatic compound in Northwest Washington found itself at the center of a press frenzy yesterday.

The embassy also is between ambassadors with the recent departure of Alasri Saeed al-Dhahri, leaving Charge d’Affaires Jassim Muhammad al-Housani in command until the new ambassador, Saqr Ghobash, arrives early next month.

An embassy representative said Mr. al-Housani would not comment on the story that brought a spotlight on the federation of seven emirates on the Persian Gulf.

The UAE suddenly is on the front pages of U.S. newspapers, lead stories on network news shows and the top of the talk on talk radio.

The embassy said the controversy over Dubai Ports World’s purchase of a British company that operates major U.S. shipping terminals is a “private matter,” although the UAE company is state-owned.

Members of Congress demanded an investigation into the deal.

The embassy referred reporters to a group of attorneys and company executives who rushed to Washington to try to save the company’s contracts with the American ports.

Saudi ‘myths’

The Saudi ambassador is trying to expose what he calls the “many myths” about Saudi involvement in terrorism and support for a brand of Islam that Osama bin Laden claims inspired him.

Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal noted that his country, the birthplace of the Muslim faith, is in a constant state of alert in which “barbed wire and blockades now spoil public places, and machine-gun nets are placed near government buildings, residential compounds, hotels and high-traffic areas.”

However, Saudis face an additional burden because of negative publicity since the September 11 attacks that involved 15 Saudi subjects out of 19 terrorists, he said.

“Our national character has been marred in the eyes of the world,” he said in a recent speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“As a result of the actions of a few deranged criminals, Saudi Arabia, its people and culture have been called into question. As a result, there exists much misunderstanding about Saudi society and culture. Many myths have emerged in recent years that are misleading about how we live and who we are.”

Prince Turki said one myth is that Saudis export a “brand of extremism known as Wahhabism,” named for the 18th-century Arab scholar Sheik Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab.

“He did not advocate the killing of the innocent or condone acts of suicide. Individuals like Osama bin Laden may claim their origins in Wahhabism, but their faith is perverted,” he said.

Prince Turki cited the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to clear Saudi Arabia of two other myths. The report noted that no Saudi subjects left the United States in secret flights after the September 11 attacks when U.S. airspace was closed. The report also found no evidence that the “Saudi government funded acts of terrorism,” the ambassador said.

The Saudi government has responded to evidence that individual Saudis laundered money for terrorism through charities or certain banks. Prince Turki said his government has closed charities, restricted the activities of others and imposed strict banking laws to stop money laundering.

“Through acts of violence and horrific crimes, Osama bin Laden aims to destabilize our country, overthrow the established order and take over Saudi Arabia, the home of the two holy mosques,” he said, referring to the mosques in Mecca and Medina.

Prince Turki called bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network evil.

“Their twisted vision is alien to the healthy body of the faith that holds the world’s Muslim community together,” Prince Turki said.

“But these evildoers will never, ever succeed. That I can assure you.”

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

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