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Detainees were pushing ‘extremist agenda,’ Saudi foreign minister claims

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir attends a high level meeting to discuss the current situation in Libya during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20, 2017. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
NEW YORK: A group of prominent clerics, academics and businessmen in Saudi Arabia who were arrested earlier this month were “pushing an extremist agenda,” according to Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir.
The minister also claimed the detainees had taken funding from foreign countries.
Many of those arrested had previously been critical of the government or its policies, and some have ties to a brand of political Islam the country’s rulers have long opposed. While there have been social media posts apparently identifying some of those arrested, the government’s Center for International Communication has not responded to requests for comments and the names cannot yet be independently confirmed.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York on Wednesday, Al-Jubeir said that more information would be released “when the investigations are concluded,” and stressed that “(those) detained were pushing an extremist agenda. They were inciting people, and this was not going to stand.”
He added that, since Saudi Arabia expected others to have “zero tolerance for extremism and terrorism,” then “we ourselves will live by this.”
In contrast, he later referenced Qatar, saying Saudi Arabia’s neighbor — currently embroiled in an ongoing feud with the Kingdom, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — “has to stop supporting terrorists, stop financing terrorists, stop providing safe harbor to people implicated and wanted for terror financing.”
Al-Jubeir went on to name Iran as “the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism,” claiming Saudi Arabia’s longtime rival was “on a rampage” that is destabilizing the Middle East.
“Iran is a huge threat to all of us in the region and unless it changes its policy our region will always be troubled,” he said.
Asked about the Kingdom’s commitment to Saudi Vision 2030, a blueprint announced last year to diversify the economy away from oil, Al-Jubeir said the government has taken tangible steps toward implementing the plan, citing the building of entertainment venues, the introduction of laws giving companies “direct licensing to have retail operations in Saudi Arabia,” and the diversification of the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund to invest more overseas as examples.
“These are things that are noticeable,” he said.

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