CAIRO, Egypt – Islamic terrorism is "the work of the devil," and Saudi Arabia will fight it "until we eliminate this scourge," King Abdullah (search) said in an interview broadcast Friday.
In the interview with ABC-TV's Barbara Walters, he also said the kingdom will expand the rights of women and eventually allow them to drive.
The king denied assertions that his government finances schools that teach a fundamentalist philosophy of Islam that can lead to militancy.
Saudi Arabia "will fight the terrorists, and those who support them or condone their actions, for 10, 20 or 30 years if we have to, until we eliminate this scourge," the king said.
When asked why groups such as Al Qaeda (search), the terror network led by the Saudi-born Usama bin Laden (search), had taken root in the kingdom, he replied: "Madness and evil. It is the work of the devil."
Foreign observers and liberal Saudis have long contended that the way Islam is taught in Saudi schools encourages attitudes that may lead students to become terrorists later.
"For those who level these charges against us, I say provide us with the evidence that this is happening and we will deal with it," the king said. "It is not logical or rational for us to be supporting it.
"We have also regulated our charities and we have closed offices around the world, and we have withdrawn support for institutions that we found to be extremist," he added.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the kingdom took steps to prevent money collected by Islamic charities from being diverted to terrorist groups.
The kingdom was initially faulted for being slow to clamp down on militants and their financing, but it drastically stepped up its measures after Al Qaeda-linked groups launched a series of terror attacks on Saudi soil in May 2003.
Abdullah, who became king on the death of his half-brother Fahd in August, told ABC he was committed to increasing the rights of Saudi women, who are currently not permitted to drive cars and who need a male relative's permission to travel abroad or attend university.
"I believe the day will come when women drive," he said. "In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive.
Driving licenses for women "will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible," the king said in the ABC report, which was posted on the network's Web site.
But when pressed on whether he would legalize female driving, Abdullah indicated Saudi men were too conservative for such a step any time soon.
"I value and take care of my people as I would my eyes," he said. "I respect my people."
Parts of the interviewed were aired Friday morning on "Good Morning America." The full interviewed was scheduled for broadcast Friday night on ABC's "20/20" news magazine show.