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Nominee to Be US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Appears Before Congress

President Bush's nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia says, if confirmed, he will work with the Saudis to further anti-terrorism efforts. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

President Bush nominated Ford Fraker, who is chairman of the London-based investment banking firm, Trinity Group Limited, to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia last month. Fraker once served as Head of Banking for Saudi International Bank.

At a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fraker said Saudi Arabia has made and continues to make progress in the fight against terrorism.

"Hundreds of terrorists have been arrested and killed in the last three years," said Ford Fraker. "I believe the Saudis have come to understand the need to address the roots of extremism that underlie terrorism, especially the need to aggressively deny financial support for terrorist organizations. If confirmed, I will be committed to expanding and deepening our efforts in these critical areas."

But Fraker said the United States continues to be concerned with restrictions on religion in Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia is proud of its responsibility as custodian of Islam's holy sites of Mecca and Medina," he said. "However, it must also work to ensure that moderation and tolerance triumph over extremism and hatred."

Fraker called on Saudi Arabia to move forward on economic, political and social reforms.

The nominee said he believes the Saudis will play a positive role in bringing stability to Iraq.

"I know also they have encouraged Sunni elements to participate in the political process in Iraq from a regional stability standpoint," said Fraker. "It has been made clear to us and clear to them that it is in nobody's interest to have a fractured Iraq on their border."

Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, praised Fraker's qualifications and predicted that he would be easily confirmed by the Senate.

If he is confirmed, Fraker would replace U.S. Ambassador James Oberwetter in Riyadh.