No Support for U.S. Attack on Iraq in UAE and Saudi

March 17, 2002 - 0:0
ABU DHABI -- U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney on Saturday took his Mideast tour to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and top ally Saudi Arabia, but found no support for new U.S. military strikes on Iraq, AFP reported.

Cheney held talks in Abu Dhabi with UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan on "international efforts in the fight against terrorism as well as latest developments in occupied Palestine in the light of Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people and means of reviving the peace process."

However, the official WAM news agency added the UAE leader "made it known to the American vice-president that the Emirates are opposed to any military strike against Iraq."

"There is a need to act with restraint in the interests of America, the region and the world," Sheikh Zayed said, according to his minister of state for foreign affairs Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahyan, quoted by WAM.

Sheikh Zayed also urged the United States to "play a more active role in the search for peace in the Middle East and to put an end to the grave Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

"Unarmed Palestinians should not be put on an equal footing with those who bombard them with planes and tanks," Hamdan quoted his president as saying.

After the talks, the vice-president, who arrived in Abu Dhabi from Oman, flew on to the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to meet the rulers of Persian Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia on one of the most crucial legs of his 11-nation swing.

Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom's de facto ruler, revealed the strength of his opposition to U.S. threats to extend the "war on terror" to Iraq in an unusually blunt interview with a U.S. news channel.

"I do not believe it is in the interest of the United States, or the interests of the region, or the world," he told ABC news on Thursday.

"I do not expect (a strike) to lead to the required result, and the same applies to Iran," Abdullah added.

"Saudi leaders are expected to voice their opposition to an eventual U.S. strike, as made clear by Crown Prince Abdullah," one Saudi official told AFP.

Such frankness from Saudi rulers is a by-product of the September 11 attacks on the United States blamed on Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

The accusations of being soft on terrorism fired by U.S. media at the kingdom have put Saudi-U.S. ties to the test and prompted a new openness from the royal family which has decided to hit back.

Cheney spent barely two hours in Yemen on Thursday discussing "the intensifying relations between Yemen and the United States and their partnership in the global war on terrorism," a U.S. Embassy statement said.

Cheney was also to hear details of Prince Abdullah's Middle East peace initiative based on Israeli withdrawal from occupied land which is to be presented for endorsement to an Arab Summit in Beirut on March 27-28.

Abdullah told ABC most Arab states, including Syria, backed the initiative, noting that "the details of any negotiations on refugees are up to the Israelis and Palestinians."

U.S. peace envoy Anthony Zinni returned to Israel on Thursday after an escalation in violence in the 17-month Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which has claimed more than 1,540 lives.

Cheney has already visited Jordan, Egypt, Yemen and Oman. He is also to go to Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as Israel and Turkey.