Crown Prince Abdullah has affirmed his belief that a strong bond of friendship remains between the kingdom and the US. In an interview published in the Washington Post and the New York Times on 28 January, he made clear his determination to inject a measure of frankness into the relationship, saying it was the duty of friends to offer sincere advice where they saw a need for change.

Repeating his criticism of the US media for its increasingly hostile view of the kingdom, he claimed press reports were creating a false impression of relations between the two countries. ‘I don’t believe there is a change in the relationship,’ he said. ‘Our relationship has been very strong for over six decades, and I don’t see any reason why there should be a change.’

Press attention has in recent weeks focused on an alleged Saudi Arabian request for the US to withdraw military personnel in the kingdom, the role of Saudi nationals in the 11 September attacks and the divergent views of Riyadh and Washington on the Palestinian uprising. It has led to talk of a rift between the countries, resulting in the spotlight shifting to the presence of the US military on Saudi Arabian soil.

Abdullah refuted the claims that US personnel would be asked to leave. ‘There has been no discussion over military forces,’ he said. ‘None of them have taken place.’ The denial echoes those made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld as well as top Saudi Arabian military officials a week earlier.

Other Western press reports have stressed the involvement of Saudi Arabian nationals in the 11 September attacks and have claimed the kingdom is not pulling its weight in the US campaign against terrorism. ‘A deviant is a deviant regardless of nationality,’ said Abdullah. ‘Bin Laden is a deviant regardless of his nationality. Bin Laden’s objective was to drive a wedge between the kingdom and the US. He picked young Saudis, and he was able to brainwash them. The proof is that he was able to name them and say what regions they came from. That is proof that he planned this very carefully.’

But he maintained the kingdom was not afraid to speak out in Washington against what it sees as suspect policy decisions. ‘I have great concern about America’s credibility and I care about how America is perceived,’ he said, with reference to US support for Israel. ‘Because America is a friend, I find it my duty to offer advice when it is needed.’