Saudi foreign minister opposes U.S. military attack on Iraq

Sunday, August 4, 2002

TEHRAN, Iran -- Key Iranian and Saudi officials Saturday said they could not support a U.S. military strike against Iraq and would, instead, encourage Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions.

"All the countries of the world, especially neighbors of Iraq, should make plans to encourage Iraq to observe the resolutions of the U.N. in order to remove any ground and possibility for aggression against Iraq," President Mohammad Khatami told Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, during his one-day stop in Tehran.

Iranian state radio said Prince Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, voiced opposition to "any U.S. military attack on Iraq or any other Muslim or Arab countries."

Washington has called openly for toppling Saddam, whom it accuses of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi leader has blocked U.N. inspectors access to suspected weapons sites, reneging on agreements he made at the end of the Gulf War.

"The problem of Iraq cannot be solved militarily and interference in Iraqi affairs is harmful to the people of Iraq and countries in the region," Prince Saud said, according to Iranian TV.

Echoing similar sentiments, Khatami said the interference of big powers -- a reference to the United States -- threatened peace and security in the region.

He and Prince Saud called for unity in the Muslim world in support of the Palestinians, and accused Israel of taking advantage of the situation in the region to degrade Islam, the TV broadcast said.

Prince Saud said he was carrying a message for Khatami from Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, but did not reveal its contents.

Abdullah, a key U.S. ally, proposed an initiative that Arab states adopted in March as a blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian peace, offering Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for land seized by the Jewish state during the 1967 Mideast War.

Saudi-Iranian relations have improved significantly since Khatami, a moderate cleric, was first elected in 1997. Khatami made a historic trip to Saudi Arabia in 1999.

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