Gulf states tell US to drop war plans on Iraq
Times of India
September 3, 2002
The Gulf oil monarchies toughened their tone on Tuesday against a new US war on Iraq, telling Washington to listen to Arab allies and drop plans to attack Baghdad.
"All of us reject any US military action against Iraq," said Oman's minister of state for foreign affairs, Yussef bin Alawi, whose country holds the annual presidency of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
"We are looking for a solid Arab position tomorrow in Cairo about Iraq," when an Arab League ministerial session is held, bin Alawi told reporters during a break in a two-day meeting of GCC foreign ministers that was extended into Tuesday evening in this Red Sea city.
"The United Nations is responsible for continuing negotiations with Iraq, and the Iraqis should fully cooperate with the United Nations to solve the problem of weapons inspections," bin Alawi added.
Asked if the Gulf Arab states, all allies of Washington, could convince President George W. Bush not to carry out threats to overthrow the Baghdad regime, the Omani minister said: "We will do all that we can to avoid this war.
"The United States is a friend of the Arabs, and we hope that they will listen to us."
The US administration alleges that President Saddam Hussein is again developing weapons of mass destruction, a charge Baghdad strongly denies.
"All of us are looking to destroy all weapons of mass destruction, and this is an objective for all Arabs," bin Alawi said, apparently alluding to Israel's nuclear arsenal, before the ministers went to consult with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Bin Alawi had opened the GCC meeting on Monday with an unusually hard-hitting speech warning that the United States risked plunging the world into chaos.
"If the United States invades Iraq it will cause deep anti-American feeling and will provoke revenge and violence in Arab and Islamic countries," he said.
"The world cannot accept a weakened role for the United Nations. Those who are thinking they can impose a new law for their own benefit, they are pushing the world into instability and chaos.
"The hopes that the embargo on Iraq will be lifted have gone with the wind. Now it is clear that the power which dominates the United Nations is not looking to help the Iraqis or the Arabs but rather to its own aims and has complicated the Iraqi issue," bin Alawi said.
The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who have individually all expressed opposition to a new war on Iraq.
Bin Alawi also called on the Arab League to step up efforts to protect Palestinians.
"The Arab League ministerial council should make more effort to stop the Israeli raids (on Palestinian areas) and ask the international community to put more pressure on Israel," he said.
Bin Alawi urged the major powers to use an Arab peace plan as a basis for a Middle East peace conference and to push Israel to negotiate.
GCC foreign ministers met late on Monday in Jeddah with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, who was seeking support for a European peace plan for the Middle East.
He urged Gulf states to push the Palestinians to support the new plan "to create a momentum for peace", but officials, who asked not to be identified, said the Dane had a difficult time.
The Gulf ministers support the Arab peace plan and felt there was little chance Israel would look favourably on the European initiative, the officials said.
"I can't say I got support but I didn't get the other thing because they now have to study it ... They supported the main lines of the initiative but of course not all the steps because they need time to analyse," Moeller said.
He said he had been encouraged during talks with Abdullah, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, who won pan-Arab backing in March for his own peace plan. It offered Israel normal ties with the Arab world in return for a pullout for all occupied Arab land.
Moeller was in Egypt on Tuesday and was due to visit Israel on Wednesday.