- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

DOHA, QatarBritish Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday that he thinks that oil-rich Gulf states would be willing to help bail out countries stricken by the global credit crisis.

The British leader has said that he wants “hundreds of billions” of extra dollars pledged to the International Monetary Fund, noting that the Middle East has significant foreign exchange reserves fueled by previous surges in the oil price.

“The Saudis will, I think, contribute like other countries so we can have a bigger fund worldwide,” he said after a three-hour meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah late Saturday in Riyadh.

The IMF already has dipped into its $250 billion reserves to provide emergency loans to Iceland, Hungary and Ukraine totaling $30 billion. Pakistan has said it may call on the international body for $5 billion more.

The Saudis did not comment publicly on their talks with Mr. Brown, but Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said his country was keen to work together with other nations, noting that Qatar also has been affected by the financial turmoil that has gripped the world in recent months.

“We are sharing the same world and we are sharing the same principles … and I think we should look how we can help this economic crisis,” he said after meeting with Mr. Brown in Doha. “Qatar is not excluded.”

Analysts have argued that Gulf states will feel little impetus to bolster the IMF fund, given its domination by the United States and the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

“They need to be involved in serious decision-making regarding the financial and economic health of the global market. It is no longer possible to leave them out,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science at Emirates University in Al Ain. “The tendency has been a dismissive one so far, and that hasn’t been wise.”

A senior British government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said that during talks, the Saudis had been concerned about becoming a “milk cow” to prop up “basket case” economies in other parts of the world.

Mr. Brown has been eager to win favor with Arab states by stressing that they have not been represented enough on international bodies and promising them a “seat at the table” as world leaders draw up plans for new international financial regulation.

King Abdullah is due to attend a meeting of Group of 20 major industrialized and developing nations to hammer out potential reform of the global financial system, scheduled for Nov. 15 in Washington.

He said that Saudi Arabia and other energy-rich Gulf nations are likely to want to see a concerted effort by Western leaders to tone down anti-Arab rhetoric in their own countries.

“It’s no longer credible to call these guys fanatics and extremists … and make them scapegoats,” he said.

Gulf nations are also likely to press for a tougher stance against Iran, and a renewed emphasis on ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he said.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, who is traveling with Mr. Brown and a delegation of more than 20 senior British executives, indicated definite pledges were unlikely before the Washington meeting, noting that the talks are “a process, not an event.”

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