Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sleeping Volcano under Saudis

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sleeping Volcano under Saudis

Article excerpt


FOR decades the ruling Saudi royals have been engaged in a careful balancing act that now threatens to be thrown off-kilter by shock waves from the 11 September outrages and their aftermath, writes Patrick Sawer.

On the surface the country, ruled since 1932 by the house of Saud, is a close ally of the West. It allowed US troops on its soil during the Gulf War and now condemns Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. On the streets, however, there are different voices. In Riyadh cafEs young, educated men openly praise Bin Laden.

"Osama is a very, very, very good Muslim," Feras Bukhamsin, 24, a bank clerk, told Time magazine this week.

His businessman friend, Bader, 25, agrees: "He's a good guy. He's just looking to get justice for the Arabs."

According to many commentators these voices have grown because Islamic militancy has been given a relatively free rein as a trade-off for the al Sauds retaining an iron grip on power.

Despite the modernisation that transformed the desert kingdom following the discovery of oil reserves in 1938, Saudi Arabia remains a land where rigid religious codes and traditional values are strictly enforced. In many ways it is a sophisticated version of what the Taliban have imposed on Afghanistan.

Cinemas and discos are TRANSPORT Secretary Stephen Byers is embroiled in fresh controversy over his special adviser today after it was claimed she ordered a civil servant to engage in dirty tricks to undermine Tube chief Bob Kiley.

Jo Moore - who sent an email to officials an hour after the World Trade Center attacks suggesting that it was a good day to "bury" bad news - ordered a senior official to release a damaging story about Mr Kiley, a longstanding opponent of the Government's PPP plans for the Tube, according to newspaper reports.

She allegedly wanted Alun Evans, then communications director at the Department of Transport, to publicise claims that Mr Kiley's staff had doctored certain pro-Government passages in a report on Tube safety. …

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