Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in his press briefing today, reiterated Saudi Arabia's call for an end to military action against Iraq, a return to peaceful negotiations, and resort to the United Nations for a solution to the crisis in order that the national security and civil institutions of Iraq be spared the destructive effects of war. He referred to the recent televised address of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques concerning the Kingdom's position on this.
Prince Saud went on to stress the importance of keeping open channels of diplomatic action for the solution of the Iraqi crisis, without creating a breach between the Arab world and the people of the United States and Britain. The Arab League, he said, has contacted the UN Security Council requesting the convening of an extraordinary session to discuss ways of bringing the war to a halt, adding: "The two warring sides should have realized that this tragic war would cause huge damage to Iraq and that they have to compromise for peace instead of offering sacrifices for war."
Prince Saud confirmed that Saudi Arabia has already prepared comprehensive humanitarian assistance in the form of foodstuffs, medicine and shelter to serve 24,000 displaced persons. Iraq, he said, had been informed of these measures at the recent meeting in Cairo of Arab foreign ministers, noting that the Iraqi government had requested that this aid not be distributed until Iraq specifically requests it.
To a question on oil shipped to Jordan, Prince Saud commented that that country is suffering from its dependence on Iraqi oil supplies now halted because of the war, and declared that its Arab brothers must help Jordan maintain its economic situation. In response to a question on the position of the Arab countries should Iraq prove to have no weapons of mass destruction, he said the issue would at that time be decided by the UN Security Council. Asked whether the war might trigger sentiments of hatred among the Saudi people against Britons and Americans, he said he did not think so, because hundreds of thousands of Britons and Americans are against this war, and it is the governments, not the people, that have launched war against Iraq.
Commenting on reports that U.S. forces might stay in Iraq after accomplishing the declared objectives, Prince Saud said Saudi Arabia absolutely rejects occupation. Reviewing the causes of the current situation, he said both sides are to blame. The Iraqi government, he said, has over the past twelve years failed to comply with the UN resolutions; but the United States then hastened to wage war instead of waiting for the results of the UN inspection. Other stated reasons, he said, are fictitious; for example, if the war is supposed to be about the region's oil, then oil is available in the world market and nobody needs to go to war to get it. Relations between the oil exporting countries of the Middle East and the United States, as the world's biggest oil consumer, is constructive rather than threatening. Oil, therefore, has never been the reason behind this war.
Prince Saud reiterated his appeal to stop a war that can only lead to devastating results, advocating cooperation as the best way of promoting everyone's interest. He expressed his belief that occupation of Iraq is not the motive of the U.S. forces, citing their prompt departure after liberating Kuwait in 1991, and repeated his opinion that oil is not the reason for the war. As for the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, especially since the U.S. and the U.K. have bypassed the United Nations, he reiterated the Kingdom's call that they be lifted, since sanctions only harm the Iraqi people.
Referring to the effects of the war on the future of the Palestinian problem, Prince Saud declared that at least there is a sense that the Americans and the British are open to the need for a solution in this matter. The real test, however, is the extent of their seriousness in pushing implementation of the 'roadmap' and relating it to the Arab initiative adopted by the Beirut Arab Summit.