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Saudi Ambassador-Designate to US Says His Country is Fighting Terrorism

Saudi Arabia's ambassador-designate to the United States is rejecting criticism from the U.S. Congress that his country is financially supporting schools that teach radical Islam.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," Prince Turki al-Faisal defended Saudi Arabia against allegations that it is not doing enough to stop the flow of Saudi money to radical Islamic schools.

"Well, I think it's misplaced criticism," Mr. al-Faisal says. "I know if they (critics) consult with their federal government, from the president down on, they will see that Saudi Arabia is really in the forefront in the fight against terrorism, and has been for many years."

The Saudi diplomat said his government is willing to stop the flow of any Saudi money going to Islamic schools, or madrasas, but added that he has not been able to get details about the accusations.

"If we are being accused of something, we have to have the information," Mr. al-Faisal says. "We need specific names, specific addresses, specific things like that to be able to trace and pursue these matters. And we're doing everything we can."

Prince Turki pointed to three joint U.S. - Saudi committees that are looking at different aspects of terrorism.

Prince Turki was educated in the United States and is currently his country's ambassador to London. He takes over for Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was Riyadh's representative in Washington for more than two decades.

Prince Turki is the brother of the Saudi foreign minister and, as a former intelligence chief, has had dealings with the Taleban and al Qaida prior to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Prince Turki acknowledged that he knew the head of the al Qaida terror network, Osama bin Laden.

"I met him in the eighties, long before he became the monster that he did after that (9/11)," Mr. al-Faisal says.

Earlier on the same program, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman (Republican) Pat Roberts said he thinks the leaders of Saudi Arabia have their own interests to consider in cracking down harder on Islamic extremists.

"Well, there better be improvement because it's their self-preservation that's at stake," Mr. Roberts says. "Bin Laden, and the basic networks within the networks would like to dislodge or replace or terminate that government."

Senator Roberts said he feels Saudi Arabia is doing more to combat terrorism than it used to. But when asked whether he feels Riyadh's efforts are enough, he said that is still what he called an "open question."