Dec. 13, 2003
Saudi ambassador accuses Iraq war opposers of ‘chutzpah’
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Countries that opposed the US decision to invade Iraq have no right to protest US initiatives restricting reconstruction contracts to allies, the Saudi ambassador to the US said Friday.
“It’s amazing how people who were doing everything possible to derail the success” of the Iraq war now “feel they have the right” to reconstruction contracts, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said. “It just takes so much chutzpah.”
The ambassador’s comments on the diplomatic controversy came during a strong defense of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Bandar went on to rebuke Europe as ineffectual, saying at one point that he wouldn’t want to have to call on that continent’s leaders if he encountered trouble in a dark alley.
“The U.S. is the best bet,” he said, adding Saudi people are America’s “friends.”
Bandar also reiterated the Saudi condemnation of terrorism and said the U.S. had no choice but to go to war in Iraq. Removing Saddam Hussein from power “couldn’t happen by poetry. It had to happen the way that it did,” Bandar said. “The good of it outweighs all the pain that was caused by the process.”
The ambassador repeatedly praised Bush’s decisions to fight terrorism, invade Iraq and send troops to Afghanistan to oust the Taliban.
“We should be grateful for what the United States has done to get rid of those two evils, the Taliban and Saddam,” Bandar said, generating applause from hundreds in attendance of a luncheon co-sponsored by the Bilateral/U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
Bandar kept his comments about terrorism to a minimum despite recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia and warnings of more to come.
“That fight has been imposed on us,” Bandar said. “None of us asked for it.”
Nail A. Al-Jubeir, spokesman for the Saudi embassy, said recent attacks on foreigners’ housing compounds demonstrates the “evilness” of the al-Qaida terror network.
“We’ve uncovered a number of cells, a number of weapons,” he said. “We expect more attacks.”
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis, and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom revoked his citizenship in 1994.
Saudi Arabia has spent more than $17 million on public relations, advertising and lobbying in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Justice Department records. Television ads have depicted Saudi Arabia as aligned with American interests, and the country has hired Washington lobbying and law firms to advance its case.
Bandar has toured the United States in conjunction with the ad campaign to promote Saudi Arabia’s relationship with America and its commitment against terrorism.
“We are your friends because you have never taken an action that would hurt our people,” Bandar said, adding that Saudi Arabia will continue doing its part to “be shoulder to shoulder with you against evil.”