Prince Turki al-Faisal

It is a tough time to be Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

Many Americans have not forgotten that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis. And soaring gasoline prices are a constant reminder of the market clout exercised by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, in dealing with the US, the world's largest oil consumer.

Prince Turki al-Faisal has served as Washington-based ambassador for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2005. He is the son of former Saudi King Faisal and brother of the nation's current foreign minister.

The ambassador is no stranger to the US. He came to this country at age 14 to attend the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and went on to be a member of the class of 1968 at Georgetown University, along with former President Bill Clinton.

From 1977 to 2001, the prince led his country's external intelligence service, the General Intelligence Directorate. In a recent speech, he said he spent 30 years in the intelligence business "without speaking to anybody." All that changed in 2002, when he was named as Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London.

Here are excerpts from Prince Turki's remarks at Tuesday's breakfast:

On US - Saudi relations:

"It is a relationship of people who are interested in each other, who find benefit from each other, and who over the past 70 years or so have managed to overcome great difficulty in remaining friends.

On the causes of higher oil prices:

"The main causes for the rise in prices as I have been told by experts ... are threefold. One is the general insecurity in the areas that produce oil, whether it is the Middle East or Nigeria or even your relationship with Venezuela.... Our estimation is that there is between $15 and $20 extra on the price of oil [per barrel] due to that. The other matter that is equally crucial and important is the lack of refining capacity worldwide."

On the danger of military action against Iran:

"We are against any military conflict in the Gulf whose aim is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear knowhow. We think [it would be] catastrophic to us because ... the immediate result of course is ... another spike in oil prices. And this time nobody knows how high up the price will go. Secondly, there will be counter-measures by Iran if it is attacked.... It is not just going to be the Gulf states that will be affected by responses from Iran if it is attacked. But we think that there would be a worldwide manifestation of Iranian response."

On alleged Saudi intolerance against those not practicing the Wahhabi version of Islam:

"We are a country that has in one century, the last century, moved from a social and political and philosophical view of the world that was based mostly on 17th-century - and if you like 18th-century - background, to 20th-century attitudes and aspirations. And some of that baggage has come along over the past century ... we are open to criticism. There are faults within our makeup, whether social, political, or philosophical. We are happy to look at those faults and try to rectify them. And we are. We admit we have people in our midst who are bigots and who are intolerant and who see the world in an attitude of them and us. And hopefully by recognizing that and uninhibitedly dealing with it that we can rectify it. But it is not an issue where we have a miracle wand about where we can simply point that wand and say be done and it is done. We admit that it will take us some time within our makeup to move forward from these unacceptable attitudes and tangents that we think have affected the substance of and the practice of the true spirit of Islam."

On the effect on the Middle East of US involvement in Iraq, especially if things do not improve:

"Well I think it will have a very disturbing effect as it already does. Uncertainty is never, in my view, acceptable in a place like the Middle East, despite the proponents of what is called creative instability. What we need in the area is stability. Deterioration in any country, whether it is in law and order or whether it is in potential civil strife and perhaps even civil war, brings disorder and creates potential for more disorder. So bringing the Iraqi people together and hopefully encouraging this new government to take on its responsibilities and be effective in meeting the daily needs and requirements of the Iraqi people is something we support very strongly."

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