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Bush Urges Saudis on Child Custody

August 27, 2002

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CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) _ President Bush urged Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to resolve custody disputes involving American children who are barred from leaving the kingdom.

Bush raised for the first time the problem of the abductions to Prince Bandar bin Sultan during his visit to the Texas ranch.

Conservatives have been pressing Bush to more forcefully pursue humanitarian issues with Saudi Arabia, including citizenship cases in which American children are kidnapped or detained, often by their Saudi fathers, and are prevented from leaving.

``The president cited ... the crying humanitarian concerns, the issues involving justice and the rights of people to come back to the United States if that’s their desire,″ White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

He referred to the case of Amjad Radwan, 19, born in Houston to an American mother and Saudi father and who is prohibited from leaving Saudi Arabia. Her mother, Monica Stowers, had taken the child and her older brother to Saudi Arabia in 1985, only to learn that her husband already was married with a family.

Stowers attempted to take the children when she left, but her husband refused to let them go and a Saudi court awarded him custody. Courts there almost always favor Saudi fathers in child-custody cases involving non-Saudi mothers, according to State Department officials.

In 1990, Stowers was able to get the children and flee to the American Embassy, which refused to help. Stowers ultimately was arrested and imprisoned. Eventually, Amjad escaped to live with her mother and brother in Saudi Arabia, but she is not allowed to leave.

Fleischer said Bush asked the Saudi ambassador to help resolve the problems so she can return to the United States. He also urged resolution of other similar cases. The ambassador said he would relay the message back to Saudi Arabia.

Asked why Bush raised the issue now with Saudi officials, Fleischer said: ``Because not enough progress has been made, because people who should be allowed to come back to the United States have not been able to.″

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