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Interview with Saudi charge d'affaires

[Afghanistan] Saudi Charge D' Affaires for Kabul, Abdullah Fahad Al-Kahlani IRIN
Abdullah Al-Kahlani, Saudi charge d'affaires for Afghanistan
The new Saudi charge d'affaires for Afghanistan has said his biggest challenge during his posting will be to restore the country to its former glory. Abdullah Fahd al-Kahlani leaves the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday bound for the Afghan capital, Kabul, and despite Saudi/Arab connections with Afghanistan and the toppled Taliban regime, including that with the wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, he was optimistic about relations with the Interim Administration. In an interview with IRIN on Wednesday, Al-Kahlani reiterated his government's support for the Afghan authorities and said his major priority would be to help with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country, ravaged by more than two decades of civil war. QUESTION: How much did Saudi Arabia pledge during the Tokyo Conference for the reconstruction of Afghanistan? ANSWER: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of the aiding of countries. It has been one of the major parties of the Tokyo conference, where the commitments were made for the relief and providing aid to Afghanistan. We committed US $220 million during the conference. In addition to this, there have been some other relief funds provided by the people of Saudi Arabia, collected through public donations, and they amounted to about US $40 million. King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz has provided US $10 million as his personal aid to Afghanistan and this is already on the way to be distributed to Afghanistan. A sum of US $20 million was given to the [Interim] Administration of Hamid Karzai following his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and US $1 million was given to the United Nations to help pay salaries for Afghan civil servants. Q: As one of the wealthiest Islamic nations, what extra responsibility does Saudi Arabia have in the peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan? A: The kingdom supports the territorial integrity, peace and sovereignty of Afghanistan. It will provide any possible available aid to the country which goes to the prosperity of Afghanistan and to the stability of the country itself. The kingdom has been playing an active role by providing assistance through all levels - health, education and to refugees returning. There are aid programmes in the offing. I cannot specify to what amount they are now, but they will be announced in a few days' time. On the political side, we have been supporting all political resolutions which are directed to the stability and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan. Q: What sort of relationship are you hoping to have with the Interim Administration taking into account the previous and recent history of Arabs allied with the Taliban ? A: First of all there has been much support for the Interim Administration from our side. The kingdom has supported all resolutions that brought this administration into force, and has been among the countries which established cordial ties with the government and are committed to helping them. We hope to have good relations with them and work with them in years to come. Q: What is the Saudi government's stance on those Arabs involved with the Taliban? How should they be dealt with ? A: There have been some individuals who have supported these elements [Taliban] and the kingdom wants nothing to do with them. Our major concern is to contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan and support the people in every way possible. The Arabs [supporting the Taliban] were from different countries. But with regard to Saudi nationals who are reportedly in Cuba, there is a section in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is pursuing their cases with the relevant authorities, and that is all I can say about this matter right now. Q: Do you accept that Saudi funding of religious organisations in the region has led to instability? If so, what part is the kingdom going to play in rebuilding Afghanistan and containing Islamic militancy in Central Asia and Pakistan ? A: I absolutely refute any reports that the kingdom has been funding madrasahs or the militancy in Afghanistan. They are unfounded and baseless. What is true is that the government of Saudi Arabia has been providing funds and support through the legitimate organisations. With regard to Saudi nationals funding terrorism, we have no evidence of this. Q: Karzai is heading up a pro-western moderate regime in Kabul. Does Riyad believe he's taking the country in the right direction ? A: The kingdom has been one of the supporters of the Bonn conference and has since been supporting the Interim Administration and its decisions. We will continue to do so. Q: Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have sworn to topple the house of Sa'ud. Do you feel the region poses a threat to Saudi Arabia, and what is your government doing to root out fundamentalist sleeper cells in Saudi? A: These threats have no value and do not pose any danger. The kingdom has committed itself to stopping terrorism and has been cooperating with the forces in the fight against terrorism.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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