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Saudi Arabia Launches $1M Ad Campaign

Saudi Arabia this week launched a $1 million radio advertising campaign designed to improve the desert kingdom's public image in the United States.

The ads point out the Sept. 11 commission's (search) finding that the Saudi government was not involved in terrorist attacks upon the United States.

One piece mentions the commission's recounting that Saudi Arabia stopped a 1998 plot to attack U.S. troops.

Another emphasizes that members of Usama bin Laden's family and other prominent Saudis were not, as is often alleged, spirited out of the United States on quasi-legal flights in the days immediately following Sept. 11, 2001.

"The comprehensive findings of the Sept. 11 commission finally reveal the facts as to the allegations of support for Al Qaeda: 'We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization,'" one ad reads.

The ads don't address the commission's criticism of Saudi Arabia, which its official report calls "a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism."

The report goes on to say that Saudi-funded Islamic schools have been exploited by extremists and that while Saudi cooperation against terrorism improved after the Sept. 11 attacks, "significant problems remained."

Saudi Arabia — the birthplace of Al Qaeda leader and Usama bin Laden — historically has not invested much energy in public relations. As an oil-rich nation that does not rely on tourism, it has never had to.

But after Sept. 11, it became hard to ignore that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Herman Eilts (search), a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, says the Saudis are worried that mistrust by the American public could trickle up to policy makers.

"After all, the Saudis have been dependent on us for security assistance," Eilts said. "They don't want that to stop. So they have come to the conclusion, belatedly but wisely I think, that they have to do more to explain themselves to the American public."

Nail al-Jubeir (search), the primary spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., says the ads will try to convince a skeptical public that Saudi Arabia is getting a bad rap.

"There really was not much talk about the vindication of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 episodes," said al-Jubeir, a familiar face to television news viewers. "What it also does is debunk a lot of myths we've heard from politicians and those trying to undermine the U.S.- Saudi relations."

Saudi Arabia says the ads are designed to be conciliatory in nature, not political. In fact, they'll stop running before the Republican convention in September.

The ads will run in 19 cities: Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Portland, Maine; St. Louis; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington.

For his part, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) has repeatedly questioned Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fighting terrorism and accused President Bush of not pressing the issue.

In May 2002, the kingdom spent millions on a television ad campaign aimed at bolstering its image with Americans.

Those ads coincided with the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (search), who met with President Bush at his ranch in Texas. They featured images of U.S. leaders meeting with Saudi officials and quotes from Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell showing support for the country.

The television ads carried the tag lines "The People of Saudi Arabia: Allies Against Terrorism" and "The People of Saudi Arabia: Allies For Peace."

Click on the video box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Alisyn Camerota.