Saudi prince defends statement

Oct. 13, 2001 at 4:51 AM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A Saudi prince, who had a $10 million check for the victims of attacks on the World Trade Center refused by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani because the prince said the United States should balance its stance toward Palestinians, said he thought he could get serve as a bridge between New York and the Arab world.

"So I thought that I had the chance to bridge the gap between the Arab world, the Muslim world and Saudi specifically, and New York, because inevitably, after this horrendous act that took place in New York, inevitably some bridges had been broken, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia said on CNN's "Larry King Live." "So I thought I could be playing a role in getting things closer between our community and the Arab world and Islamic world and New York."

Alwaleed attended a brief memorial service was held at "Ground Zero" Thursday and a moment of silence observed at 8:48 a.m. at the exact moment one month ago when a hijacked airliner struck the North Twin Tower of the World Trade Center killing 422 and leaving 4,815 declared missing.

He presented the $10 million check to Giuliani and expressed his condolences to the people of New York and condemned terrorism. However, an aide traveling with the prince distributed a statement to the media that said "we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack."

"I believe the government of the United States of America should reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause," he said in a statement.

"While the UN passed clear resolutions 242 and 338 calling for the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip decades ago, our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek," Alwaleed said.

The statement said the prince strongly advocates peace and believes in dialogue. "Arabs believe that if the U.S. government wanted, it could play a pivotal role in pushing Israel to sign and fully implement a comprehensive peace treaty. We want bloodshed to stop and we want to start working for a better Middle East."

Hours later the mayor refused the check and the prince quickly left town.

"Well, sure, I was very surprised, Larry, because we're in touch with the mayor's office a week before our arrival to New York, and this matter was very much coordinated with the mayor," the Saudi prince told King. "And it was arranged that I'll meet him at the site, and the donation would have been given to him as planned, and that is what took place exactly.

"However, unfortunately, the incident went out-of-hand, and the mayor took the position of not accepting the donation, although I came all the away from Riyadh for that purpose only, flew 13 hours, stayed there only eight hours, and then flew back to Riyadh all the way just because of that purpose," the prince added.

Alwaleed said he was very attached to the United States, especially New York. He got my Ph.D. from Syracuse University and has various investments in downtown New York and Manhattan such as Citigroup, AOL-Time Warner, News Corp. and Saks Fifth Avenue.

"As far as my statements related to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, I think it's very important to the United States -- and I speak as a friend of the United States, very close, and I say this openly and publicly," the prince told King. "It's very important for the United States to acknowledge there's a big problem in the Middle East.

"For the United States to go and fight the Taliban, and fight Bin Laden, they have all the right to do that, and I'm backing them all the way, like almost all the Islamic countries that met recently and approved the U.S. retaliation against Taliban and bin Laden.

"However, it is very important to go and to face, too, which is really -- you have to extract the roots of the problem. And the roots of the problem are found in Palestine," Alwaleed added.

Alwaleed said that as a friend to the United States he felt it was his duty and responsibility to convey the message to America openly.

The prince is chairman of Kingdom Holding Co. and reported to have a fortune of $20 billion mainly in U.S. equities. He's listed in Forbes magazine as the sixth wealthiest man in the world. He told King he would not donate the $10 million to another organization helping victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"I came to Mr. Giuliani because I respect him. He is the mayor of New York, and I have all the trust in him, he said. "If Mr. Giuliani does not accept it, I don't think I will cheapen my noble cause and go somewhere else just to avenge, or you know, just -- just -- just to do something that is not right."

Giuliani also spoke with Larry King on CNN Friday. "It seemed to me that what he was trying to do was to link this dreadful, awful terrorist attack on the World Trade Center to his view of what was going on in the Middle East," the mayor said. "And it seemed to me it would be really inappropriate to take the money.

"We just don't stand up and say, there is no -- there is no excuse, there is no justification. The people who did this lost any right to ask for us to understand what they did by killing, you know, 5,000 innocent people" he added.

Malcolm Holmlein, executive vice chairman, conference of presidents of major Jewish organizations participated in a prayer service at Ground Zero Friday.

"This is an awesome place here what we witnessed here is evil the very epitome of evil but we also witnessed great acts of courage and humanity," he said. "We saw it again yesterday when the mayor rejected the contribution of prince Alwaleed.

Alwaleed is the nephew of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd.

"That fact that 13 of those who carried out this horrendous attack came from Saudi Arabia is a message to his government and the mayor acted with moral courage and again showing that he has not only the conviction but he has the courage to stand by them and to carry them out," Holmlein told reporters. "Unfortunately there remain some like the Saudi prince who have yet to learn the lessons of Sept. 11 and try to shift the onus onto others and have the chutzpah to challenge America's policy rather than their own."

(Reporting by Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)

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