Saudi Arabia Rebuffs US on Iraq
Saudi Arabia rebuffs U.S. on Iraq
Saudi Arabia has decided not to allow the United States to use its facilities for any attack against neighboring Iraq. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
DUBAI, Nov. 3 — Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. regional ally, said on Sunday it would not allow the United States to use its facilities for any attack against neighboring Iraq, even if a strike was sanctioned by the United Nations.
‘We have many friends and allies in the region and we have many friends and allies around the world.’ — MARY MATALIN
counselor to Vice President Cheney
“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,” Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told 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,” he added.
Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter makes it mandatory for U.N. member countries to implement any measure immediately as part of international law.
The prince’s remarks were the strongest Saudi rejection of any assistance to a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.
Mary Matalin, counselor to Vice President Cheney, told CNN’s “Late Edition” program following Saud’s comments 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.”
NO COMMENT FROM WHITE HOUSE
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as President Bush flew to Springfield, Ill. on a domestic political trip, said “I don’t talk about operational issues or basing issues,” and declined further comment.
Prince Saud has in the past indicated the United States could use bases in Saudi Arabia 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 launch pad 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.
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 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s rule over his 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 Baghdad 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 Arab 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.
Riyadh was a launchpad for the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait after a seven-month occupation.
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.
The Saudi foreign minister said Saddam’s fate should be decided by the Iraqi people and warned against a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq in the event of an attack against Baghdad. “You can never make a permanent change through occupation by foreign forces,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has been a strategic U.S. ally for more than half a century but ties were severely strained by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, in which 15 of the 19 men believed to be the suicide attackers were Saudis, by a possible U.S. attack on Iraq and by the Middle East conflict.
Washington blames Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network for the hijacked jet attacks on U.S. cities.
Saud said there was no crisis in relations between Washington and the kingdom, which is the largest oil exporter to the United States. “The long-term relations between the two countries remain the same,” he said.