- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

Bahrain's concerns

The deputy foreign minister of Bahrain yesterday urged the United States to be cautious about how it presents its motives if it takes military action to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq.

Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar told editors and reporters over lunch at The Washington Times that the Bush administration must be careful to preserve key institutions, such as the regular army, to avoid "chaos."

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"It's very important how you present yourself, if you take the decision to go to war," said Mr. Abdul Ghaffar, the minister of state for foreign affairs.

Bahrain, the home of the U.S. 5th Fleet, does not want war, but has no respect for Saddam, he said.

"We try to convince the Iraqis not to miss this last opportunity," he added, referring to U.N. efforts to get Iraq to disarm voluntarily.

"Nobody trusts Saddam Hussein. … But people care about the innocent people of Iraq," he added.

Mr. Abdul Ghaffar urged the United States to preserve the regular Iraqi army, as opposed to Saddam's Republican Guard and high-ranking members of his Ba'ath Party.

"We have to keep the army in order to create order and stability," he said. "Without that, you will have no democracy."

Mr. Abdul Ghaffar, a former ambassador to Washington, said Bahrain is well-aware of the good work the United States does throughout the world, but that many countries are suspicious of U.S. motives.

"The United States is doing many good things in the world … but you do not have good PR in the Arab world or in the whole world," he said. "You do many good things, but most people don't know. They see the planes. They see the bombs."

He urged Americans to invest more in the region, either through business or government aid, saying, "Economic presence … will have a lasting effect."

Mr. Abdul Ghaffar, who represented Bahrain at the United Nations during the Gulf war, suspects the Security Council may demand another resolution on Iraq. He doubts the council will authorize military action directly, but may declare Iraq in a "decisive material breach" of the last U.N. resolution, which would clear the way for war.

Mr. Abdul Ghaffar is in Washington this week to prepare for a visit here on Monday by Bahrain's King Hamad, who will meet with President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He said the trip is a "working visit" instead of a ceremonial state visit.

In Bahrain this week, King Hamad has told reporters that his main reason to travel to Washington is to explain his country's concerns about war.

"I will explain to U.S. officials that the region is facing a dangerous situation and our country is geographically and economically close to that risk," the king said.

Germany 'no partner'

Germany has damaged its relations with the United States through its repeated criticism of U.S. efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein, the U.S. ambassador in Berlin said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy closed its consular section after receiving a warning of a potential terrorist attack against American interests.

Ambassador Daniel R. Coats told a German television station that he was concerned about long-term damage from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's repeated criticism of the Bush administration over Iraq.

"I am worried about increasing warnings in the United States that Germany is no longer a partner when it comes to solidarity with the United States," he said. "We need to think about what our future will be like."

Germany, a member of the U.N. Security Council, has said it will not support military efforts to remove Saddam, but has promised to allow the United States to use American military bases in Germany in the event of a war against Iraq.

"The chancellor has clearly said that we can use the bases in Germany that they would not stop us from doing so. We believe the government will keep its word."

The embassy said the consular section will remain closed today as a "security-related precaution." Berlin police said they had received threats against both the U.S. and Israeli embassies.

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