Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, at his regular weekly press conference yesterday, reiterated the Kingdom's great concern at developments of the situation in Iraq, and its desire to prevent any military confrontation. He expressed satisfaction at the statement by U.S. President George W. Bush that the military solution would not be the final one, saying: "We feel optimistic because the problem has been referred to the UN …… [and] even if the UN Security Council decides in favor of war in line with Article Seven of its Charter, then we are hopeful that the Arab countries will be given a chance to propose a peaceful settlement." He went on to comment that President Bush had pledged to conduct consultations with the countries of the region prior to taking a decision on war, adding: "I think that Bush means what he says."
Prince Saud warned against the adverse impact that war would have on all the countries of the region, not just Iraq, and repeated that Iraq itself can take action to avoid war. However, in the event that war is embarked upon, he categorically denied that the Kingdom would extend facilities to U.S. forces. He commented that the Prince Sultan Base at Al-Kharj hosts aircrews from Britain and France as well as from the United States, and their mission is strictly confined to surveillance of the no-fly zone in Iraq in line with the relevant agreements. He nevertheless stressed the strength of Saudi-American relations at all levels.
Prince Saud then referred to the tense situation in the Palestinian territories, and the repressive measures taken by the Israeli authorities against the unarmed Palestinian people, saying: "In light of the Arab peace initiative that was approved last year by the Beirut Summit, and the efforts being exerted by the Committee of Four, we can say that opportunities for peace are still available, provided that the concerned parties respond positively to these efforts and genuinely work for peace." He expressed the hope that Israel could be persuaded to go ahead on the path of peace, although he feared that the forthcoming elections in Israel would change nothing, and might even lead to further extremism.
On his recent visit to Sudan, Prince Saud said its aim was to explore means of enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, both members of the Arab League. He noted that the Kingdom, as Sudan's neighbor, is concerned about the situation there and expressed the hope that the civil war will soon come to an end. Saudi Arabia, he added, maintains good relations with all the countries of the Horn of Africa.