Saudi foreign minister says Bush ignored Iraq warning
From the DailyStar:
Kingdom doubts charter will fix problems
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says the Bush administration did not heed Saudi warnings about occupying Iraq, and he doesn't believe a new constitution and elections will solve the emerging nation's problems. Prince Saud al-Faisal also said his country was holding out the prospect of an eventual peace treaty with Israel but could have no diplomatic contact in the meantime as other Arab and Muslim countries have had. He said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not acted on opportunities for peacemaking after his withdrawal from Gaza.
"He does something and then immediately goes to the United Nations and makes a speech saying, 'I am not going to do this, I am not going to do that,"' he said.
"We are not establishing relations just for the heck of it," he added. "It would be false,
because we are in a state of conflict." In a wide-ranging interview, Saud said he'd like to see oil prices drop about $20 a barrel from its current $60-plus range, but predicted a lack of refineries will keep consumer prices higher even if crude should become cheaper.
On Iraq, the foreign minister expressed skepticism at Bush administration officials' predictions that coming political events in Iraq will heal the country's divisions.
"Perhaps what they are saying is going to happen," he said. "I wish it would happen, but I don't think that a constitution by itself will resolve the issues, or an election by itself will solve the difficult problems."
U.S. policies in Iraq risk dividing the country into three separate parts: Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab, he cautioned. "We have not seen a move inside Iraq that would satisfy us that the national unity of Iraq, and therefore the territorial unity of Iraq, will be assured," he said.
Faisal also voiced concern at purported Iranian meddling in Iraq's affairs.
"Iraqis are complaining of interference by Iran. If there is indeed such interference, especially in provinces neighboring Iran [in the south of the country], that would be quite serious," he said.
The alleged interference "includes the entry of people, money and weapons as well as meddling in political life," Saud said.
His remarks reflected Riyadh's concern that Shiite Iran could increase its influence in Iraq, where it already enjoys sympathy among the now-ruling majority Shiite community at a time when the once-dominant Iraqi Sunnis feel marginalized.
Faisal said the Saudis were skeptical of the outcome before the United States went to war in Iraq, but its concerns were not always heeded.
"It is frustrating to see something that is clearly going to happen, and you are not listened to by a friend, and soon harm comes out of it," Saud said. "It hurts."
The foreign minister said his kingdom was not ready to send an ambassador to Baghdad because the diplomat would become an immediate target for assassination.
"I doubt that he'd last a day," Saud said.
Saud also made clear the kingdom's offer to Israel of peace with all Arab countries if it relinquished all the land the Arabs lost in the 1967 war remains on the table.
By withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza, Saud said, Sharon seemed willing to turn from being "a general who wants to conquer territory" to making peace.
Instead, Saud said, Sharon is making demands of the Palestinian Authority that he knows cannot be met.
"The Palestinian Authority has been decimated by Mr. Sharon himself; they are weak because of what he did to them, and now he is insisting they disarm Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad," Saud said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not have the troops to do it, Saud said.
Ministers from nearly a dozen Arab and Muslim countries, including Qatar, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia, have met with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Saud said his government would not follow their lead.
"We have not signed a peace treaty. How can you establish relations? How is that conceivable? How can it be trusted?" he said. - AP, AFP
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