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Saudi Arabia turns to radio ads to boost image in US

NEW YORK - Saudi Arabia is using a radio advertising campaign to tell Americans it is a loyal ally in the fight against terrorism and to tackle allegations made in Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11'.

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The campaign reminds listeners of the findings of the US 9/11 Commission.

'Fear', one of the 60-second spots, challenges Moore's accusation that Saudi citizens, including members of the Bin Laden family, left the US by aeroplane shortly after the September 11 attacks. It reads from the commission's findings, which stated "no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights".

The second ad, called 'speculation', highlights the Saudis' efforts since 1998 to quash Al-Qaeda.

Both ads, which have a voiceover provided by an actor with an English accent, finish with the line: "A message from the people of Saudi Arabia: strong allies, committed friends."

In addition to the publicity generated by Moore's hugely successful film, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate has also weighed in to the debate, questioning the Saudis' commitment to fighting terrorism.

However, a Saudi spokesman said the ads were not a response to the film or to Kerry's campaign.

In a release issued by the Saudi embassy in the US, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the minister of foreign affairs, said: "The 9/11 Commission has put to rest the false accusations that have cast fear and doubt over Saudi Arabia. For too long, Saudi Arabia stood morbidly accused of funding and supporting terrorism.

"The government and the people of Saudi Arabia are engaged in a determined and deadly battle with Al-Qaeda forces. This is a battle that we cannot and will not lose, God willing. But to succeed, we need encouragement, not recrimination; we need partners, not prejudice; and we need cooperation, not condemnation."

The campaign will run until September 6 in 19 cities, including Washington, Dallas, Chicago and Boston.

The Saudi government has already spent millions of dollars on PR and advertising since the September 11 attacks in an effort to boost its image among Americans, many of whom believe the oil-producing kingdom is closely linked to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

However, it faces an uphill struggle to win US public favour, given that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers have been identified as Saudi citizens along with the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, and 160 of those held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

A 2003 television campaign emphasised the values shared by Americans and Saudis.

The ads can be listened to here.

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