Saudi Arabia’s minister of interior suspects that Zionists were behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States last year.

“We put [up] big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11 and who benefited from them,” said Prince Nayif Ibn Abd Al-Aziz, in an interview that originally appeared in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa. “Who benefited from events of 9-11? I think [the Zionists] are behind these events.'”

The comments come amid U.S. news reports of a possible money trail between Saudi royals and terrorists, including 9-11 hijackers.

Discounting the role of Saudi Arabians, the prince hinted that foreign powers might have provided support to terrorists who carried out the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people.

“I cannot still believe that 19 youths, including 15 Saudis, carried out the September 11 attacks with the support of bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization,” he said. “It’s impossible. I will not believe that these people have the power to do so horrendous an attack.”

The prince’s beliefs echo assertions by media in the Arab world that the Israeli Mossad hatched the 9-11 plot, enlisting Islamic extremists to carry out the attack in order to increase American support for Israel.

A translation of the interview was published on Friday by ‘Ain-Al-Yaqin, a weekly Internet news magazine run by the Saudi royal family. Excerpts were distributed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

‘Zionist-controlled media’

According to the interviewer, “Nayif stressed that relations between the Saudi and U.S. governments are strong despite the Zionist-controlled media that manipulated the events of Sept. 11 and turned the U.S. public opinion against Arabs and Islam.”

The prince reiterated Saudi Arabia’s official condemnation of the attacks and urged Arab mass media to address terrorism, “warn Arab nationals of it, and let our voice be heard by the world that our countries are against terrorism.”

Nayif also exhorted the Arab media to protect Islam from an attempt by “foreign intelligence” to connect it with terrorism. He said he suspected that terrorist organizations have a relationship with foreign intelligence that works against Arabs and Muslims, especially Israeli intelligence.

“They wanted to attack us at our bases and tenets, notably our religion and the Palestinian issue,” he said.

But the interviewer states that Nayif accused the Muslim Brotherhood – the radical organization founded in Egypt in 1928 – of being the cause of most problems in the Arab world. The article noted that the interior minister’s “outburst against the Brotherhood came amid mounting criticism in the United States of Saudi Arabia’s longstanding support for Islamist groups around the world. …”

“All our problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood,” Nayif said. “We have given too much support to this group.”

Nevertheless, the prince insisted that the West needs to change its image in the Arab world “fast.”

He chastised the U.S. media and some European media, especially Britain’s, for a hostile attitude toward Arabs that has fueled hatred. The West’s position toward the “Palestinian cause” has contributed to that hatred shown by Arabs, he said.

Prince Nayif added, according to the article’s paraphrase, “that painting Saudi citizens with the brush of terrorism and talk about interference in education, and even the Islamic law, increased hatred of the people toward the U.S., although the U.S. people are innocent and good in general.”

He also denied that U.S. officials have requested that Saudi Arabia change its educational curricula, likely a reference to concerns about anti-Jewish sentiments. He defended the Saudi educational system as “intact but subject to developing by Saudi experts.”

The foreign minister denied charges that Saudi Arabia’s “privacy” annoys its allies, offering evidence of the kingdom’s “excellent, diversified and deep-rooted relations with others.”

Vice and virtue

The prince also commented on the kingdom’s Committee to Prevent Vice and Promote Virtue, or religious police, in the face of criticism over its handling of people who violate Islamic law and custom according to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

He characterized the department, which monitors public behavior, as a governmental agency that does not have hegemony and operates under the law.

Its workers should avoid harshness, especially with young people, he said, noting that an institute for training would be established to address “shortcomings.”

The religious police became embroiled in controversy both domestically and internationally in March when 14 school girls died in a fire in Mecca after they allegedly were prevented from leaving the burning building because they were not properly dressed to be seen in public. The girls either did not have a hair covering or an abaya, a long robe.

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