Skip to comments.U.S., Saudi Stress Strong Ties Despite Bad Publicity
Posted on 01/16/2002 8:48:20 AM PST by RCW2001
Wednesday January 16 10:44 AM ET
By Rawhi Abeidoh
RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. and Saudi officials trying to salvage a long friendship strained by the Sept. 11 attacks pledged Wednesday to work together against what they called bad media publicity in both countries.
``We in the kingdom are certain that any questioning of the depth and strength of our relationship is short-lived because this friendship is based on common interests and shared goals,'' Saudi National Economy Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said.
Assaf was speaking at a meeting of the U.S.-Saudi Business Council. It coincided with a visit by U.S. assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs Lincoln Bloomfield to discuss the U.S. military presence in the oil-rich kingdom.
``He is here for consultations with the Saudi government to review our presence here and to discuss what we need and what we don't need,'' U.S. ambassador Robert Jordan told reporters.
The New York Times said Wednesday that senior officials in Congress and the Pentagon had called for the pullout of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia because of what they see as the kingdom's tepid support for the U.S. ``war on terrorism'' and restrictions on American military operations.
Asked if Washington was considering a pullout, Jordan said: ''We were going to reduce our troops after the (1991) Gulf War anyway.'' He did not elaborate.
The continued presence of about 5,000 American troops at a U.S. air base outside the capital Riyadh has angered some Saudis, including Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, who Washington says planned the attacks on U.S. cities.
Bin Laden has said that 15 of the 19 suspected suicide hijackers who crashed jets into U.S. landmarks were Saudis.
BOTH COUNTRIES TARGETED
Saudi officials and the U.S. envoy said both countries had received bad publicity that questioned the depth of bilateral ties dating back to the 1930s.
``Both our countries have been targeted. There are many who have sought to use these events to drive a wedge between us,'' said Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Quraishi, head of the council.
``We should do everything we can to let the world know that this partnership still thrives, even in adversity,'' he said.
Saudi officials have decried what they call a hostile campaign by U.S. media and pro-Israeli senators, who have accused the conservative kingdom of being soft on terrorism and of trying to ``export'' its austere brand of Islam.
Saudi Arabia relies on Washington for protection against neighboring Iraq and Iran. The United States is the biggest foreign investor in the kingdom with a total investment of $18 billion. Total two-way trade stood at some $20 billion in 2000.
Jordan told the council the ``enormous and often erroneous media attention'' to perceived failures in the partnership should galvanize leaders to work together.
``The serious issue before us is how we can overcome the corrosive and negative publicity that has arisen in both countries,'' he said.
Jordan dismissed as rumors reports that many Saudi students had left the United States after the attacks, that U.S. authorities were singling out Arabs for bad treatment and that Saudi accounts had been frozen.
``Bad press hurts. Since September 11, I am sorry to say that the U.S. has received bad press in Saudi Arabia and the kingdom had bad press in the American media,'''' he said.
``We need to reach out to broader audiences and present the positive side of the U.S.-Saudi relations.''
Sounds like they're getting nervous.
To think that the Saudis might have to dirty themselves by defending their own country--the horror!
We'll think about it.
For starters, they must stop financing international terrorism. If they do not, conflict is inevitable. They seem to be learning fast, so I think they will come around.
We can live without their oil. They could quit selling oil tomorrow and the world's other oil producers could make up the shortfall easily.
The only reason I can see to care about Saudi Arabia is Mecca. If relations got so bad that we actually went to war with them, it would have the potential to unify Islam against us. In the end we may have no choice, but we should avoid that if we can.