In his first television interview since he took the throne, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah told ABC News' Barbara Walters about his plans to expand women's rights in his country and his country's own struggles with terrorism and extremism.
Following is a transcript of the interview which aired on "20/20" and "Nightline."
BARBARA WALTERS: I understand that now that you are king, you prohibited your subjects from kissing your hand. Were you embarrassed to have your hand kissed?
KING ABDULLAH: I have tremendous distaste for such matters because I believe that one only bows before one's God, not before another human being.
WALTERS: When you visited President Bush this past April, there were photographs of you and the president holding hands. This is not a gesture common among American men. Did it have significance?
ABDULLAH: Yes. In our culture, holding hands is a sign of friendship and a sign of loyalty and you do it with people dear to you. And President Bush is a friend whose friendship I value and ... and treasure.
WALTERS: Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, is this something that has caused you great grief? Would you like to say anything to the American people about that?
ABDULLAH: Yes, of course it had, and we were shocked. It has had a negative impact on all Saudis because this is not who we are nor is it what our faith teaches us. We as Arabs are always loyal to our friends and we value such friendships.
WALTERS: Well, officially our two countries are friends and allies, but unofficially there seems to be some suspicion and even hatred. Why do you think this is?
ABDULLAH: Yes, the Saudi people have some disagreements with the United States, in particular when it comes to the issue of the Palestinian question, the war in Afghanistan and the war with Iraq, and I believe this may have influenced the opinion of the Saudi public towards the United States ... What we ask for is that justice and equity prevail among all of the ethnic groups in Iraq. We believe that all Iraq is one country in which all Iraqis live in peace and justice. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until today has not interfered in Iraq's affairs. We have not done so because we don't want to open ourselves up to charges or accusations that we are ... that we have a hand in the disintegration of ... of Iraq. We also have been accused in the past of having a hand in what happened in Iraq, in particular with regards to terrorism and the violence, and we are innocent of these charges. And we have remained neutral in spite of the injustices that we see currently going on.
WALTERS: Let's talk about Iran ... Iran has become more powerful as a result of the turmoil in Iraq. Do you see that as a concern for Saudi Arabia?
ABDULLAH: The questioner is often times more knowledgeable than the questionee.
WALTERS: (Laughs) So, you are not worried about Iran becoming more powerful?
ABDULLAH: Iran is a friendly country. Iran is a Muslim country. We hope that Iran will not become an obstacle to peace and security in Iraq. This is what we hope for and this is what we believe the Iraqi people hope for.