Saudi Arabia set to tackle negative image in the West

RIYADH: Public and private sector bodies in Saudi Arabia have teamed up to launch a PR campaign in a bid to counter what it perceives as ‘negative reporting’ on the country.

The Saudi Committee for the Development of International Trade (CIT), which has launched the campaign, plans to invite delegations of politicians, businessmen and journalists from Europe, the Far East and the US to provide ‘first-hand experience to opinion-makers abroad on life in the kingdom’, according to CIT.

The initiative also aims to counter a raft of negative stories that it believes have ‘come largely from the US’.

The campaign – in which foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal is taking an active role – will also aim to provide a ‘Saudi perspective on a number of contemporary issues linked to the Gulf region’, according to CIT secretary-general Omar Bahlaiwa.

Also involved in the PR drive and taking an active part in the talks with overseas delegations that arrive in the Saudi capital Riyadh are Minister of Commerce and Industry Dr Hashem Yamani and Prince Abdullah ibn Faisal ibn Turki, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).

Council of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry secretary-general Dr Fahad Al-Sultan is also heavily involved in the charm offensive, which is backed by English-language daily Arab News.

Last week Saudi authorities detained Ali Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi, who is suspected of masterminding the May suicide-bomb attacks in which 35 people died in three Riyadh compounds housing foreign nationals.

US officials have described the seizure of Ghamdi as a major blow to terror network Al Qaeda’s operations in Saudi Arabia. Most of the suicide bombers responsible for the September 11 atrocities were Saudi nationals.

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