Saudi royal family lambasts moore for twisting truth
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Saudi royal family lambasts Michael Moore for twisting the truth in his 9/11 film
In an exclusive interview, Prince Turki al-Faisal tells Con Coughlin why the US film-maker is so wrong
The Saudi royal family has launched a bitter attack on the American film-maker Michael Moore over his claims that the Bush administration secretly smuggled a number of high-ranking Saudi nationals out of the US in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Prince Turki al-Faisal: Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UK
In the first official comment by the Saudi royal family on Moore's controversial film Fahrenheit 9/11, a leading member of the family said his country has been fully exonerated of any complicity in the attacks by the report of the 9/11 commission.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to London and a half-brother of Crown Prince Abdullah, was in charge of Saudi intelligence at the time of the 2001 terror attacks. He said that Moore had failed to carry out adequate research into his controversial claims that the Saudis were involved with Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'eda leader, in the build-up to the 9/11 atrocity.
'It would have been far better if Michael Moore had been able to read the 9/11 report before he made his film. It shows that all the protocols were strictly observed.' Because Moore had not thoroughly researched the allegations levelled against Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki said that Fahrenheit 9/11 is 'grossly unfair' to the Saudis.
In his film, Moore claims that the Bush administration helped a number of Saudi princes and members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States immediately after the attacks at a time when American air space had been closed to all commercial air traffic. Moore implies that the Saudis were smuggled out of the country to cover up their involvement in the terror attacks.
Prince Turki said these claims have now been completely refuted in the report compiled by the US commission of inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, which was published at the end of last month.
In a section headed 'Flights of Saudi Nationals Leaving the United States', the report found 'no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001'. The report also concludes that it found no evidence of political interference by the White House, and states that those Saudis who did leave the US on charter flights in the days following the attacks had been thoroughly vetted by FBI agents.
Prince Turki said Moore could have found this out for himself before he made the film, but he 'chose to speculate' rather than establish what really happened.
'Michael Moore made a request to visit Saudi Arabia and we granted him a visa, but he never came,' said Prince Turki in an interview with The Telegraph. 'He missed an important opportunity to find out key facts. In my opinion he should have made every effort to go to a country he has taken to task so heavily in his film.'
Prince Turki said there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the decision to fly home a number of prominent Saudis in the days following the attacks.
'They were allowed to leave because everyone recognised that anyone with the name bin Laden might have a hard time with the American public after the terror attacks,' he said.
Far from assisting al-Qa'eda, Prince Turki said that the Saudis thought they were the most likely target of a devastating terrorist attack by bin Laden's organisation, and the country had been placed on its highest state of alert since the summer of 2001.
'We thought that bin Laden was planning to attack us, not America. Therefore it was not exactly in our interests for us to support bin Laden's organisation.'
Prince Turki insisted that Saudi Arabia has been a key ally in Washington's long-running campaign against bin Laden's organisation.
In 1998 he travelled to Afghanistan to meet Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, to persuade him to evict bin Laden. At first Mullah Omar agreed, but later reneged on his promise.
'The second time I saw him our meeting ended in something of a shouting match,' said Prince Turki.
The Saudi security forces are currently involved in an intensive operation to track down the last remnants of an al-Qa'eda cell that has been responsible for a number of devastating terror attacks in the kingdom.
'We have made significant progress in fighting al-Qa'eda in Saudi Arabia,' he said. 'Of the 26 known al-Qa'eda hardliners in the kingdom, we have killed or captured more than half of them.'
Prince Turki said that the Saudis were also keen to help stabilise the situation in Iraq. 'Much of the equipment we have seized during raids on al-Qa'eda cells has come from Iraq,' he said.
'There is no doubt that as a result of the Iraq war it is easier for al-Qa'eda to sell their point of view to potential recruits. Al-Qa'eda has become stronger and more active since the Iraq conflict.'
To counter this the Saudi government last week proposed setting up a Muslim peacekeeping force that would assist the interim Iraqi government to defeat the insurgents.
'We are making every effort to assist the new Iraqi government to establish itself. We want Iraq to be a positive influence on the region. We do not want it to be disruptive and negative as it was under Saddam Hussein.'