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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 01:53 GMT
Saudis criticise US reform plan
Prince Saud al-Faisal
Faisal said Arabs do not need instructions from other countries
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has criticised US-led calls for reform in the Middle East.

Prince Saud al-Faisal said Arab nations could tackle their problems themselves.

He was speaking two days after talks in Riyadh with US Secretary of State Colin Powell - overshadowed by US criticism of the detention of Saudi reformists.

Prince Faisal said Washington's calls for reform ignored the fact that Arabs have cultures rooted in history and can handle their own affairs.

Washington believes a lack of democracy in Arab states has helped fuel Islamic militancy.

It is keen to promote reform across the region, and has encouraged its long-standing ally to speed up change.

Saudi Arabia has already promised municipal elections later this year, but says any political change will not be influenced by outside pressure.

'Internal affair'

The Saudi authorities rejected criticism from Washington over its arrest of several pro-reform activists last week, saying it was an internal affair.

Some reformists have since been released after agreeing not to sign further petitions calling for reform or talk to the media, according to reports.

Prince Faisal was speaking in Yemen, days before Arab leaders meet to discuss the US plan, dubbed the "Greater Middle East Initiative".

He said the proposals "include clear accusations against the Arab people and their governments that they are ignorant of their own affairs".

"Those behind these plans ignore the fact that our Arab people have cultures rooted deep in history and that we are able to handle our own affairs," he was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying.

He said such calls for Arabs to join the modern world were made "as if we had not been doing anything and had just been waiting for direction from outside".

Saudis 'arrest five reformists'
16 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
16 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Saudi Arabia
02 Dec 03  |  Country profiles

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