Saudi Campaign to Target Terror; Kingdom Tries to Stem Support

Article excerpt

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The government of Saudi Arabia has begun a major media blitz - including billboards, television ads and cartoons for children - designed to combat popular support for terrorists and Islamic extremism.

Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, compared the campaign to U.S. efforts to change social habits and attitudes during efforts such as the anti-drug "Just say no" campaign.

"Very few Saudis are under the illusion that we don't have a problem. We acknowledge we have a problem," he said.

But he said Saudi support for terrorism came from a "small but very, very vocal extremist minority" and that the kingdom was determined to not have that minority define Saudi culture, politics or Islamic faith.

U.S.-Saudi relations were strained when it was determined that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers hailed from the kingdom. Many Saudi mosques were centers of anti-U.S. and anti-Western thought, and Saudi funds helped bankroll schools throughout the Islamic world promoting a severe version of Islam.

Mr. al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia has made major strides since the September 11 attacks in the United States and a string of terrorist incidents inside the kingdom. Two-thirds of the country's top al Qaeda and Islamist leaders have been captured or killed, and the government has moved to cut off the flow of unregulated Saudi funds sent abroad.

The Saudi spokesman said the public relations campaign, begun last month in the wake of a major international terrorism conference in Riyadh, is the "most complicated" part of the counterterror campaign. …