Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, visited the Pentagon yesterday and held talks with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, during which were discussed issues of mutual interest. Prince Sultan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz, and Minister of State and Cabinet Member Dr. Musaid Al-Eiban. Also present was U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary Cohen said he was the eleventh Defense Secretary to confer with Prince Sultan in his 37-year tenure as the Kingdom’s Minister of Defense and Aviation, and remarked on the Saudi-U.S. friendship that dates from the meeting of President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz in 1945. He added that he would continue this on-going process, stating that the meeting with Prince Sultan would “focus on readiness to face any possible threat from Iraq or Iran, for our joint interests” and adding that in order to facilitate better communications in time of crises, there would be discussion on establishing direct telephone lines between their two offices. Secretary Cohen also touched on the subject of the liberation of Kuwait, and highlighted the role of the coalition forces in defeating the aggression of the Iraqi regime and affirmed that the United States would keep strong armed forces in the region as long as this was desired by the friendly countries there.
Referring to the liberation of Kuwait in his reply, Prince Sultan observed that the international coalition forces were called in for self-defense and not to spill the blood of brotherly Iraqi people, saying: “We had exerted efforts and called on brother Saddam and our Iraqi brothers to return to wisdom and withdraw from Kuwait without bloodshed, and to set a great example of self-correction after committing such a grave error.” Prince Sultan expressed sorrow that the Iraqi President, reluctant to do this, opted to spill the noble blood of Iraqi people.
At a news conference yesterday, Prince Sultan reiterated that the Kingdom is still not certain of those responsible for the explosion in Al-Khobar, but gave assurances that investigations are still in progress. In reply to a question about reports of the Kingdom planning to purchase one hundred F-16 fighter planes and sundry missiles, Prince Sultan stated that this issue would not be discussed during this visit, adding: “There have been for years, however, discussions in this context, between the air forces in the Kingdom and the U.S., and with manufacturing companies. These will continue.” Asked about his impressions about the new U.S. Defense Secretary in terms of Saudi-U.S. relations, Prince Sultan expressed admiration for William Cohen, and said the trust bestowed on him by President Clinton is sufficient to show us that he is a person to be respected.
Later, Prince Sultan hosted a special dinner party in honor of former U.S. President George Bush and those officials who were in the U.S. administration during the Gulf War. Prince Sultan conveyed to President Bush the greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz and of the Saudi people, and their appreciation of the efforts exerted to free Kuwait. For their part, President Bush and his colleagues praised the immense support and assistance provided by the Kingdom for the international coalition forces, describing these as essential for Kuwait’s liberation. The dinner was attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and others in the Saudi delegation; and by James Baker, Richard Cheney, General Colin Powell, and other high-ranking offiicials, both military and civilian, from the previous U.S. administration.