At a press conference in Riyadh yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal declared that even if the United Nations Security Council approves military strikes against Iraq, Arab states should be given a final chance to prevent a war that would not only harm Iraq but also destabilize the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, he said, has been urging Baghdad to cooperate with the UN inspectors to avoid war, and Arab countries and Iraq have been coordinating efforts covertly as well as publicly; and he expressed satisfaction over Baghdad's cooperation with the inspectors.
Saying he is encouraged by remarks from U.S. President George W. Bush that war is the last, not the only resort, Prince Saud declared: "Even if the UN Security Council declares Iraq to be in material breach and war becomes imminent, we hope that there would be an opportunity given to the Arab countries to mitigate the situation - to prevent war from happening. War is not a simple thing. It is not a discriminating method of dealing with problems. .….. Its consequences will destabilize the whole region. Therefore, it is not with a sense of ease that anybody should look at conflict. .….. We hope the emphasis will be on a political solution."
Prince Saud went on to say: "If there is a war in Iraq, Saudi Arabia will not participate in any direct military action. Chapter Seven of the UN Charter stipulates that every UN member shall positively respond to the resolutions, but this does not mean that they should participate in any military operation."
Asked about the initiative launched by the American administration on partnership with Arab states in the Middle East, Prince Saud said that this partnership, as referred to by the U.S. Secretary of State, includes cooperation on the economic front, and pointed out that the problems are not only political and security-related, but also economic, adding that the countries in the region are not able to overcome their economic problems on their own, and are therefore in need of outside support. He commented that if the partnership means imposing practices "that are not acceptable by our societies, the desired effect will be the opposite and the reaction to the proposals will be negative."
On the progress of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Prince Saud said that it is functioning well in the interests of the citizens of the region, proving the group can be an effective bloc, particularly in the economic sphere. In this regard, he cited the successful formation of the Customs Union.
On the question of extremist voices in the United States, Prince Saud observed that there are only positive things as far as the U.S. administration is concerned, adding that within the next two months the Kingdom hopes to close deals on multi-billion-dollar gas projects that have been stalled for more than a year, with the third consortium, led by Royal Dutch/Shell and including TotalFinaElf and Conoco, ready to develop the Shaybah oilfields, and indications that the response of the first consortium will also be positive.