Saudi official rejects joining US war even if UN does

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Nov 4 13:53:15 MST 2002


U.S. loses Saudi help for launch of Iraq war
Ally refuses to cooperate even if U.N. backs strike
Monday, November 04, 2002
BY GHAIDA GHANTOUS
REUTERS  (in November 4 Newark Star-Ledger)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. regional ally, said
yesterday that the nation will not allow the United States to use its
facilities for any attack against neighboring Iraq even if the United
Nations sanctions a strike, a top Saudi official said yesterday.

"We will abide by the decision of the United Nations Security Council, and
we will cooperate with the Security Council. But as to entering the conflict
or using facilities ... that is something else," Saudi Foreign Minister
Prince Saud al-Faisal said during an interview with CNN.
"Our policy is that if the United Nations takes a decision on Chapter 7, it
is obligatory on all signatories to cooperate but that is not to the extent
of using facilities in the country or the military forces of the country."

Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter makes it mandatory for member states to
implement any measure immediately as part of international law.

The remarks were the strongest rejection by Saudi Arabia -- which was a
launchpad for the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi troops out of
Kuwait after a seven-month occupation -- of any assistance to a possible
U.S. attack on Iraq.
The rejection comes in the midst of strained relations between the strategic
allies over last year's Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, in which 15
of the 19 men believed to be the suicide attackers were Saudis, and Saudi
anger at what it sees as U.S. bias toward Israel in the Middle East
conflict.

Saud said there was no crisis in ties between the United States and the
kingdom, the largest oil exporter to the United States.

Washington could launch an attack on Iraq without using bases inside Saudi
Arabia, but the air campaign would be more difficult if it could not at
least use Saudi air space.
Following Saud's comments, Mary Matalin, an adviser to Vice President Dick
Cheney, told CNN's "Late Edition" that the United States had many other
allies it could depend on.
Asked if Saud's comments marked a serious military setback to any U.S.-led
effort against Iraq, she said: "We have many friends and allies in the
region and we have many friends and allies around the world. ... We would
never engage unless we were sure that we could get the job done well."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One as
President Bush flew to Illinois on a domestic political trip: "I don't talk
about operational issues or basing issues" and declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Iraq appeared to be gearing up for battle. In Baghdad yesterday,
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yesterday told his air force commanders and
pilots that the nation was ready for war with the United States. "When God
wants us to fight, we will be ready to fight under all circumstances,"
Saddam said over Iraq's official television. And his foreign minister, Naji
Sabri, repeated that Baghdad would not accept a U.S. draft resolution
currently under debate at the U.N. Security Council, saying it amounted to a
declaration of war.

"A conflict can be avoided if America stops warmongering, stops making
business from wars, from killing and (causing) death to other nations," said
Sabri, who was accompanying Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider on a
tour of Baghdad's trade fair.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud has in the past indicated that the United States
could use bases in the nation for an attack on Iraq if it was sanctioned by
the United Nations. It was not clear what prompted the apparent shift in the
Saudi position.

Faced with Saudi Arabia's possible refusal to be a launchpad for strikes on
Iraq, the United States has poured $1.4 billion into expanding Qatar's Al
Udeid facility into a major air base and military staging ground.

Washington has several Gulf bases, mainly in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia, and Qatar is increasingly becoming a key base for U.S. military
operations in the region. The United States used the Udeid base last year
after Saudi Arabia refused to let U.S. planes and troops heading to
Afghanistan use its Prince Sultan base.

Gulf power Saudi Arabia and its tiny neighbor Qatar are locked in a
diplomatic row over several issues, including Qatar's decision to allow U.S.
access to the Udeid base. Western diplomats said Saudi Arabia, which
recalled its ambassador from Doha, the capital of Qatar, in September, was
incensed at what it saw as Qatar's efforts to present itself as Washington's
main regional ally, a role Saudi Arabia has had for decades.

Saud told CNN the kingdom wanted a political resolution to the Iraq crisis
and that Baghdad had made a "very clear and unambiguous promise" to Arab
states that it would abide by U.N. resolutions. "We think the road is set
for that."  Washington wants to end Baghdad's alleged pursuit of weapons of
mass destruction and has threatened military action. The United Nations is
seeking a resolution to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq after a
four-year absence. Iraq denies U.S. weapons charges and has agreed to the
return of arms inspectors.

"Saudi Arabia's position is a position to support the political settlement
of this issue because we think it is feasible," Saud said.

The oil-rich Gulf region is bristling with U.S. troops and weaponry. Saudi
Arabia alone has 5,000 U.S. troops, and Washington has said it would require
regional military help for any offensive against Iraq.

Saud said the Iraqi people should decide the fate of their president and
warned against a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq in the event of an
attack.

"You can never make a permanent change through occupation by foreign
forces," he said.




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