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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Saudis play down tensions with US
US President George Bush with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah
The US is keen to maintain ties with the oil-rich Saudis
Saudi Arabia has dismissed reports of tension in its relations with the United States, despite controversy over a briefing to Pentagon officials in which the oil-rich state was described as an enemy of the United States.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal blamed the rhetoric at the 10 July briefing - which US officials have publicly disavowed - on elements within the Bush administration.

"Unfortunately, there are people in certain departments who try to raise doubts and shake the strong historical ties between our two countries," Prince Saud said on Wednesday in a statement carried in Saudi Arabia's state media.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister opposes attacking Iraq

"I am confident that they will not succeed. The Saudi-American relationship of friendship and alliance that goes back 60 years is excellent in all fields," he said.

The Pentagon has been trying to distance itself from the briefing, given by an analyst with the Rand Corporation think tank, in which the Saudis were accused of funding terrorism.

According to the Washington Post newspaper, a Rand analyst told a Pentagon advisory body that the US should punish Saudi Arabia if it failed to stop supporting Islamic extremism.

But the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has said the briefing did not represent the government's or the Pentagon advisory board's views.

New tensions

Despite the insistence from both countries that they are long-standing allies, there are new tensions between Washington and Riyadh, especially over possible US plans to attack Iraq.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Prince Saud reiterated that Washington will not be allowed to use Saudi soil for such an attack.

"We have told them we don't [want] them to use Saudi grounds," the foreign minister said.

"We are against any attack on Iraq because we believe it is not needed, especially now that Iraq is moving to implement United Nations resolutions," he added, referring to recent overtures from Iraq to discuss arms inspections.

The US suspects Baghdad of trying to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and has pressed for UN weapons inspections to resume.

Iraq has recently offered to hold technical talks on arms inspections.

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The BBC's Andrew Bomford
"The immediate problem is the health of King Fahd"

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06 Aug 02 | Americas
19 Jun 02 | Middle East
31 May 02 | Middle East
26 Oct 01 | Middle East
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29 Jan 02 | Middle East
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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