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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Saudis offer bases for Iraq strike
US Falcon F16 fighter at Incirlik air base, Turkey
The Saudis say military strikes should be a last resort
Saudi Arabia has made what appears to be a major shift in its policy on Iraq, indicating that it could allow US forces access to bases on its territory from which to launch military strikes on Baghdad.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told CNN that such action would have to be endorsed by the United Nations and remained a last resort.

Key US air bases:
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Turkey
  • Oman

  • And he repeated calls to Iraq to agree to the return of UN weapons inspectors.

    Senior US officials have been exerting intense pressure on the UN to force Iraq to comply with UN resolutions as soon as possible to avert the threat of war.

    Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed on US television on Sunday that they expected the UN to act quickly.

    The comments by key lieutenants follow Mr Bush's keynote speech at the UN General Assembly in which he called for tough action to force Iraqi compliance on the resolutions.

    Mr Powell returns to New York on Monday, to try to keep up the diplomatic pressure at the United Nations for urgent action on Iraq.

    UN obligation

    Saudi Arabia, from which US-led coalition forces unleashed Operation Desert Storm on Iraq in 1991, has said on previous occasions that it would not allow its territory to be used for a unilateral US attack.

    Saddam knows what he has to do, it's been out there for years

    Colin Powell
    A senior Saudi diplomat, quoted by Reuters news agency, insisted on Monday that there had been no change in Saudi policy, but that Washington had shifted in its approach to the conflict with Iraq.

    Prince Saud acknowledged that his country was obliged to abide by Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which authorises the use of force in the event of a threat to international peace and security.

    "If the UN takes a decision, by the Security Council, to implement a policy of the UN, every country that has signed the charter of the UN has to fulfil it," he said.

    He welcomed Mr Bush's decision to seek international consensus via the UN and but said the world wanted a peaceful solution to the dispute.

    Italian Prime Minster Berlusconi with President Bush
    Bush wants the UN to show "backbone"
    "Whatever threat Iraq poses, it is clear that the will of the international community is to remove that threat in a way that does not require the firing of a single shot or the loss of a single soldier," he said.

    The development means US forces may be able to use the Prince Sultan air base, where most of the 5,000 personnel based in Saudi Arabia are stationed.

    In recent days, Iraq has been coming under increasing pressure from Arab states who are opposed to US military intervention to comply quickly with the UN.

    Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher has expressed hope that the crisis could be solved without the need for a new resolution.

    Bush willingness

    Mr Powell said work on a new Security Council resolution - or resolutions - to tackle the dispute over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction should take weeks, not months.

    But he also repeated President Bush's willingness to act alone against Iraq, should the UN fail.

    Ms Rice said regime change in Iraq remained US policy as there was little confidence that Saddam would ever comply with UN resolutions.

    The BBC's David Shukman
    "Iraq is under mounting international pressure"
    UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler
    "We do not know what he has done in these past four years without inspections"
    Sir Terence Clarke, former UK Ambassador to Iraq
    "Observers are looking forward to the publication of the famous dossier"

    Key stories





    See also:

    14 Sep 02 | Middle East
    13 Sep 02 | Middle East
    13 Sep 02 | Media reports
    12 Sep 02 | Middle East
    16 May 02 | Country profiles
    16 Sep 02 | Middle East
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