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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Saudis issue blunt warning to Bush
President Bush with the Saudi delegation
Saudis are frustrated by US support for Israel
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, has warned President George W Bush of grave consequences to US interests in the Middle East unless it does more to restrain Israel.

He delivered the message during an informal summit at the president's Texas ranch.

Ariel Sharon a man of peace? I don't even think Ariel Sharon believes that

Saudi Prince Saud
The BBC's Rob Watson in Texas said there had clearly been some very straight talking between the two leaders.

After the meeting, President Bush repeated his call on Israel to complete its withdrawal from the West Bank.

"Israel must finish its withdrawal, including resolution of standoffs in Ramallah and Bethlehem, in a non-violent way," Mr Bush told reporters after the meeting.

Palestinians, in turn, must "do more to stop terror," he said.

Complex relationship

Saudi Arabia is a traditional ally of the US but relations have been strained since the 11 September hijacks committed by mostly Saudi nationals.

The US has also wanted a clear denouncement from Riyadh of Palestinian suicide bombings, and the Saudis have been frustrated by American reluctance to take a firmer line with Israel.

Saudi leaders have also opposed possible American strikes against Iraq, a country which Mr Bush has branded "part of an axis of evil".

Adel al-Jubeir, a senior adviser to the crown prince, told reporters that the Saudi leader had warned President Bush of the anger in the Arab world at US support for Israel.

He said the crown prince also warned the president of the danger that the continuing violence in the Middle East poses for America's interests in the Arab and Muslim world.

He said the crown prince had asked Mr Bush to do more to restrain Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Support for Saddam

On Iraq, the Saudi leader again opposed military action to get rid of President Saddam Hussein, saying it would not be in the interests of the region or the US.

Our correspondent says that Mr al-Jubeir was careful, however, to play down talk of a rift in US-Saudi relations, describing their friendship as unbreakable.

He also ruled out any suggestion of oil being used as a weapon.

But he warned that if Mr Sharon was allowed to carry on unchecked, as he put it, the whole region would go over cliff.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal is warning of tough words
The choice of Mr Bush's ranch for the meeting suggested a desire to create an atmosphere of informal friendliness in a potentially difficult meeting.

Mr Bush has only used his private home to entertain two other leaders since he came to power - Britain's Tony Blair and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

The Saudi delegation, which arrived in a five-vehicle motorcade, was greeted by Mr Bush, who wore a dark suit, silver belt buckle and cowboy boots.

White House and Saudi officials said that the two leaders spent much of their session alone, one-to-one, and then set out in Mr Bush's pickup truck for a tour of the ranch before lunch.

The Saudi delegation left nearly five hours later - two hours longer than had been planned.

Before the meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said there was "no good terrorism" but Arabs could understand the acts of suicide bombers.

Peace plan stalled

"There is a difference between a terrorist act such as 11 September and a suicide operation carried out by a young woman or man for whom all avenues to a dignified life have been blocked," he said.

He also dismissed Israel's attempts to compare its "fight against terrorism" to that waged by the US in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington.

Prince Saud ridiculed Mr Bush's description of Mr Sharon as "a man of peace".

"Ariel Sharon a man of peace? I don't even think Ariel Sharon believes that," he told US television.

The Saudis have said that they will not push Prince Abdullah's peace plan for the Middle East, seen by Mr Bush as "a new portal" to peace, until Israel has left all the West Bank towns it has occupied and lifted the siege on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The BBC's Rob Watson
"The Saudis have been careful to play down any talk of a rift"
Senior adviser to the crown prince, Adel al-Jubeir
"Israeli agression is doing tremendous damage to American interests in the Middle East"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Tough task for Saudi prince
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel rejects Palestinian 'trial'
16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Saudis press Cheney on Israel
12 Mar 02 | Americas
US freezes Saudi charity assets
28 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saudi looks to repair dented image
29 Jan 02 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia 'still friends' with US
23 Sep 01 | Middle East
Gulf states back US
26 Mar 02 | Middle East
Profile: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
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