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Airport Says Saudis Made Sexist Request

THE NATION

April 28, 2002|From Associated Press

DALLAS — Aides to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah asked that only male air traffic controllers guide his flights during his visit in Texas, airport officials said.

Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and a member of Abdullah's entourage traveling around Texas, called the reports "absolute nonsense."

Ruben Gonzalez, a manager for the company that operates the control tower at the Waco airport, said a group of Saudis made the request to the airport manager. He said two male controllers guided the prince's afternoon flight to Houston, though a female tower manager was on the premises.

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that a Federal Aviation Administration employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Saudis' request was granted on portions of the prince's flights.

On Saturday, FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said he was unaware of any such request. "We have not received an official request from either the Saudis or the State Department," he said.

After flying into Waco to meet with President Bush at his nearby Crawford ranch Thursday, the prince flew to Houston, where he took a train to College Station to tour former President George Bush's presidential library the next day.

A telephone message left at the Texas State Technical College airport in Waco was not returned.

"I don't know where this news came from," Saud said in an earlier interview with a Houston TV station. "I can say, without going back to our people, that is absolute nonsense that they would do something like that."

Two other Saudi officials traveling with the crown prince did not immediately return phone messages left Saturday. A White House spokeswoman said she was aware of the reports but could not immediately comment.

Mark Pallone, a regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn., voiced anger over the reports.

"I don't think his request should have even been passed on," he said.

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