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Saudi prince correct us image

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Billionaire Saudi prince funds center to correct image of America in Arab world

The Associated Press Jan. 29, 2003


A billionaire Saudi prince wants to "correct" Arab misconceptions and stereotypes about the United States with a US$10 million donation to fund an American studies center, he said Wednesday.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a nephew of Saudi King Fahd, said that though many Arabs are familiar with the American lifestyle through firsthand experience or media exposure, they continue to make "sweeping superficial and inaccurate generalizations about American society and politics enough to cause one's head to shake."

The prince's donation will also fund a social science and humanity building at the US$300 million expansion campus of the 83-year-old American University in Cairo.

"Familiarity with (the) trappings of American culture has, regrettably, created the illusion of knowledge regarding the United States," said the 45-year-old chairman of Kingdom Holding Co.

Alwaleed - whose fortune is estimated at US$20 billion - said he hopes the center reaches out not only to policymakers, but also the community at large, particularly the young. He said schools in the Arab world, including universities, teach very little about the United States.

"I have long thought it incomprehensible that there was not a single viable research center devoted to the serious study of the one country, the United States, which for more than half a century has had and continues to have the greatest impact on our lives in the Arab world," he told the board of trustees, staff and students.

Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia became tense following the Sept. 11 attacks - in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Despite the two governments' efforts to downplay differences, problems remain and policy pundits on both sides remain vocal.

Wednesday's ceremony was attended by Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Obeid, the American and Saudi ambassadors to Cairo, and other ministers.

Starting a center in Egypt - a pivotal country in the region - with Saudi money at an American institute, Alwaleed said, highlights "the importance of this trilateral relation."



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Copyright 1995-2003 The Jerusalem Post -

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