Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia has criticised the organisers of last month's Jeddah Economic Forum for inviting former U.S. President Bill Clinton to address the gathering.

Prince Talal said of Clinton: "He could not serve the Arab cause as he is out of office and flew on the same day to Israel to have lunch with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and receive an honourary doctorate from a Jewish university. Besides, he also snubbed the Palestinian Presi-dent Yasser Arafat during the trip."

The Saudi dailies and columnists echoed Prince's Talal views on this issue pointing out that Clinton got one million Saudi Riyals and he had netted a total of $750,000 from his trip to the region. He has also collected donations for a project benefiting victims of conflicts.

"The invitation was surprising because it was only a few weeks ago Bill Clinton was in Britain collecting money for Jewish colonies in the Occupied Territories," stated Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz who chairs the Arab Gulf Fund for United Nations AGFUND.

Prince Talal asked: "How could he be received in the region while he was in London only a month ago to raise millions of dollars for a Jewish colony fund and for what he was paid $750,000.

"His speech in Jeddah was a carbon copy of what he said in the other two places in the region and what is the use of Clinton now as he had failed to read the Arab mind during his eight years in the White House?!"

Dealing with the continuous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim campaign, especially against Saudi Arabia, Prince Talal told the Jeddah-based Arab News daily that "all Western countries, including the EU members, are treating us very badly. They talk about Palestinian freedom struggle as terrorism, which is a terrible expression and the problem is there is no effective response from the Arab side."

"This continued silence of the Arab government and people is a disaster" lamented Prince Talal who had stated that he had undertaken a major effort to launch a dialogue with the West by confronting them on their own ground.

This project calls for sending delegations to the Western countries to meet with those who influence public opinion and decision-making and the members of the delegations should include Christians and women as well. It will be a long-term project which requires millions of dollars and thus the need to secure means for financing.

"We cannot influence the West except through dialogue. The opportunities are there. We have already written to Arab governments and legislative bodies asking for their view and encouragement. Some have already responded and made certain suggestions," said Prince Talal who pointed out that they might hire an international public relations company to prepare the ground for future interactions with the West. He also stressed that the Arabs must be fully prepared for such a mission.