- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

From combined dispatches
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates The Saudi foreign minister said yesterday the kingdom would be "obliged to follow through" if the United States needed bases in the kingdom to attack Iraq under U.N. authority.
The comments to CNN by Prince Saud al-Faisal mark a significant shift in Saudi policy. In an interview last month, Prince Saud declared that U.S. facilities in the desert kingdom would be off limits for an attack on Iraq.
When asked by CNN specifically if Saudi bases would be available to Washington, Prince Saud said: "Everybody is obliged to follow through."
Prince Saud said, however, that he remained opposed in principle to the use of military force against Saddam Hussein or a unilateral American attack.
The remote Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh hosts most of the 5,000 U.S. troops based in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Saud's apparent policy shift came as world opinion began leaning toward taking some collective action to contain Iraq, accused by the United States of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, harboring terrorists and defying the United Nations.
Last week, Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher of Egypt, among the most influential Arab states, said his government would support a U.S. strike on Iraq if it were under U.N. auspices.
Saudi Arabia has joined Iraq's other Arab neighbors in cautioning the United States not to attack, saying it would further destabilize a region made volatile by Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
Also yesterday, Prince Saud urged Iraq to quickly allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to head off a Security Council resolution that could open the way for military attacks.
"Timing is important, and allowing inspectors back before a Security Council resolution to that effect would be in Iraq's favor," he told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat.
"We are afraid that [a refusal] would harm the Iraqi people and increase their burden. We are worried about Iraq's unity, stability and independence," Prince Saud said.
In New York Saturday, envoys from the Arab League issued a similar plea during the General Assembly debate, saying Iraq should heed international calls to allow inspectors back and avert a confrontation with the United States.
Arab League ministers said Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told them Saturday that Iraq was ready to let the inspectors return but not before certain conditions were met. The United Nations has rejected any conditions.
President Bush, who accuses Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, has proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set a short deadline for a resumption of inspections and threaten action if Iraq does not comply.
Mr. Bush has also said the United States would act unilaterally if Iraq continued its defiance and the international community did not respond.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reiterated the nation's willingness to act alone to a U.S.-funded radio station broadcasting into the Middle East over the weekend.
Asked why the United States has to pursue another Security Council resolution calling for the return of inspectors, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "Well, I don't know that we do or don't."
"I think the president has decided that the breach of those resolutions is an offense not only to the United States but to the United Nations," according to a transcript of the interview obtained by United Press International.
Mr. Rumsfeld made the remark Friday afternoon to Radio Sawa, a new U.S.-funded Arabic language radio station broadcasting throughout the Middle East, including Iraq. Parts of the interview were transmitted Saturday afternoon.
U.N. Security Council resolutions passed after the 1991 Gulf War say Iraq must eliminate weapons of mass destruction and the means to produce them. Iraq claims to have done so, but it has refused to admit U.N. arms inspectors since 1998.

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