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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK
Saudis condemn Iraq attack plan
Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Moustafa Miro, right, and Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan
Iraq has launched a diplomatic drive to isolate Bush
Saudi Arabia has underlined united Arab opposition to any US military strike against Iraq, amid growing signs that Washington is preparing a campaign to topple Saddam Hussein.

President Bush with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan
Bush has been trying to get Arab countries on side
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the BBC that dealing with the Iraqi leader by trying to remove him from the outside would never work.

He urged a fresh look at diplomatic options to resolve the current deadlock.

"Whether Saddam Hussein remains or is removed from power is up to the Iraqi people," Prince al-Faisal said.

"To say that the most important thing about Iraq is the removal of Saddam Hussein we think is an unwise, to say the least, decision to make."

His comments echoed statements made over the past few days by other leading Arab figures, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Jassem al-Thani.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared earlier that unanimous support for military action is not a prerequisite for America deciding to go to war against Baghdad, which it accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction.

But it is widely believed that the hostility to a strike from Arab countries puts the US in a potentially difficult position, dependent as it is on military bases in the region to launch an attack on Baghdad.

Isolation mission

Iraq has been working on a diplomatic drive to isolate Washington, deploying a host of senior Baghdad officials to garner support against a US strike.


It is less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary
While Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan held talks in Syria, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, won strong backing for his mission on a trip to China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tank Jiaxuan said "threatening to resort to force will not solve the problem", state-run Chinese television reported.

Saddam Hussein has meanwhile been calling for a solution to the deadlock "based on international legitimacy, international law and the UN charter", in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency.

Saudi Arabia's Prince al-Faisal said Iraq might still readmit the weapons inspectors who were barred from the country in 1998, and that efforts should focus on achieving this goal.

Bush 'like Churchill'

Mr Rumsfeld said President Bush would ultimately decide on a course of action based on what he felt was in America's best interests.

Controversially, he compared Mr Bush's warnings about Saddam Hussein to Winston Churchill's stand against Adolf Hitler.

"It wasn't until each country [in Europe] got attacked that they said: 'Maybe Winston Churchill was right. Maybe that lone voice expressing concern about what was happening was right'," he said.

Despite international misgivings about a possible US attack on Iraq, the defence secretary said he was confident America would find support.

"When our country does make the right judgments, the right decisions, then other countries do co-operate," he said.

But, he added, "it is less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"This daily banging of the American war drum could be risky"
The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Arab opposition is making itself felt"
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
"Whether Saddam Hussein remains or is removed from power is up to the Iraqi people"

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28 Aug 02 | Politics
28 Aug 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Middle East
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26 Aug 02 | Middle East
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24 Aug 02 | Middle East
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07 Aug 02 | Middle East
28 Aug 02 | Politics
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