Saudi Arabia to Ask Arabs to Reject Attack on Iraq
By Fahd al-Frayyan
RIYADH (Reuters - 13 Jan) - Fearing the impact of a U.S.-led war on Iraq,
Washington's longtime regional ally Saudi Arabia appears to be trying to
rally the Arab world against any "illegitimate" foreign attack on its
A day after de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah said the kingdom was
making undisclosed proposals to Arab states, Saudi officials said Monday
that the ideas would be put formally to an annual Arab summit to be held
in Bahrain in March.
"The proposal calls on Arab states to close ranks and totally reject any
illegitimate foreign aggression on any Arab country," one Saudi official
The crown prince said Sunday he did not believe there would be a war on
Iraq, adding that the Saudi proposals, if accepted, could "solve many
problems." He did not explain how.
A Gulf-based analyst said it was not clear how another Arab declaration
against any attack on Iraq could persuade Washington to stay its hand.
Arab leaders have in the past opposed any war on Iraq, while urging
Baghdad to obey U.N. resolutions.
"Prince Abdullah's suggestion that there won't be a war and his proposal
are just hopes," the analyst said.
"The Arabs can't do anything, especially when the United States knows it
will lose credibility and authority in the region if it backs down. This
proposal is meant for domestic consumption to show the Arab people their
governments have done all they could to avoid a war."
The Saudi activity coincides with heightened unease in Europe and the
Middle East as the United States pours more troops and weapons into the
Gulf in preparation for a possible war on Iraq over its alleged
prohibited weapons program.
It also follows consultations between Saudi Arabia and Middle Eastern
leaders -- most recently Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul. Egypt's
President Hosni Mubarak plans to travel to Riyadh Tuesday, an Egyptian
official said in Cairo.
Mubarak, who met Gul a week ago, said Sunday Turkey had proposed sending
a special envoy to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to try to avert war,
Egyptian newspapers reported.
"But Egypt advised (Turkey) it was necessary to secure U.S. support for
this step so that no problems arise and we are taken by surprise with the
start of an attack on Iraq," al-Ahram said.
Turkish Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen, visiting Baghdad, delivered a
letter from Gul Sunday urging Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions to
stave off war.
Saudi Arabia's rulers, guardians of Islam's holiest sites, have many
misgivings about another U.S.-led war on Iraq, an Arab and Muslim
neighbor. The kingdom was the main launchpad for the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf
War that drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
U.S. support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians has fueled
anti-American sentiment in the kingdom, along with popular sympathy for
Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, presumed mastermind of the September 11
attacks on U.S. cities.
The kingdom is nervous about a conflict next door as this would force it
to cope simultaneously with domestic anger at the United States and
likely U.S. demands for military cooperation.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have publicly rejected a war, but
most acknowledge they are powerless to prevent it.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has repeatedly said that if the
U.N. Security Council authorises a war against Iraq, the kingdom and
other countries would be obliged to cooperate.