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Fearing Islamic militancy, Saudis push for peaceful solution - Detroit news, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Fearing Islamic militancy, Saudis push for peaceful solution By Donna Abu-Nasr / Associated Press http://www.detnews.com/2003/nation/0302/03/nation-75928.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2003
      Fearing Islamic militancy, Saudis push for peaceful
      By Donna Abu-Nasr / Associated Press


      RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Weeks before the 1991 Gulf
      War, a Saudi named Abdulrahman al-Zamil traveled
      across the United States to explain to Arab and Muslim
      Americans why his country was letting the attack be
      launched from its territory.

      A few months ago, the prominent businessman was on a
      different campaign -- leading a commercial delegation
      to Iraq that was not only a business venture but also
      an expression of support for Iraq's people in their
      confrontation with the Americans.

      Al-Zamil's travels reflect the turnaround Saudi Arabia
      has made over 12 years, from supporting one war
      against its neighbor to working hard to prevent

      However, the driving force today isn't love and
      friendship between nations but domestic concerns.
      Saudis fear the next war would be exploited by Islamic
      militants to infect Saudi Arabia with Iraq's own
      internal schisms -- the presence of U.S. troops in the
      kingdom in 1991 produced a cause for Osama bin Laden
      to rally militants around him. A war could also send
      waves of refugees across Saudi borders or goad Saddam
      Hussein into attacking his neighbors with nuclear,
      chemical and biological weapons.

      "War will be a catastrophe to all of us in the region,
      not only Iraq," said Prince Torki M. Saud Al-Kabeer,
      the Foreign Ministry's undersecretary for political

      After Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Saudi
      Arabia, worried that Iraq would send its soldiers
      south to invade the kingdom, invited U.S. troops to
      protect it.

      Osama bin Laden, then flush with the triumph of
      driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan, was outraged.
      Why, he asked, did the kingdom turn to "infidel"
      Americans instead of the Muslim veterans of
      Afghanistan? He began calling for the overthrow of the
      Saudi royal family, questioning their Islamic
      credentials and demanding the American leave.

      Over the years, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have slowly
      mended ties, although they have not restored their
      severed diplomatic relations. They have held low-level
      meetings, and trade in the past three years is
      estimated at $1.5 billion.

      At an Arab summit in Beirut last March, Saudi Crown
      Prince Abdullah embraced and kissed Saddam's deputy,
      Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

      Saudi officials say they see no justification for war
      because Iraq is contained, the weapons inspectors are
      doing their work and there's no proof yet that Iraq
      has weapons of mass destruction. They feel that Iraq
      poses no threat to the kingdom and that Iraq's people
      have suffered enough under U.N. sanctions and Saddam's

      The attack would come at a time when the decades-old
      Saudi-U.S. alliance is blighted by feelings of
      betrayal on both sides.

      Americans ask how such a friendly nation could have
      produced 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, and
      question Saudi Arabia's commitment to fighting

      Saudis bridle at toughened U.S. visa rules, airport
      searches and reports of mistreatment of their citizens
      in the United States. They also share the anger
      rampant in the Muslim world over U.S. support for
      Israel against the Palestinians and a belief that the
      war on terrorism is actually a war on Islam.

      "Everything that could go wrong in the Middle East is
      going wrong and you want to throw another bombshell by
      occupying Iraq?" said a senior Saudi official speaking
      on condition of anonymity.

      "You say we need to tone down what's being said in
      mosques, tone down the extremist rhetoric. How can we
      do that if the U.S. is occupying Iraq? What will
      happen if a bomb hits 500 worshippers in a mosque in
      Iraq?" the official added.

      ???? Al-Zamil is a graduate of the University of
      Southern California, a former deputy commerce minister
      who is now a member of the king's appointed
      Consultative Council. He considers the Iraq crisis as
      "part of the big campaign against the Arabs and the

      "If America wanted to fight a dictator, let them
      mention to me one Third-World president or king that
      is not on the same level" as Saddam, he said.

      Al-Zamil, like many Saudi officials, warned that an
      attack on Iraq would boost Muslim militants and
      recruitment by anti-U.S. groups, especially if the war
      kills many Iraqi civilians.

      It would give extremists "credibility to lead all the
      young, and the young are looking for leadership," said

      The government also worries that toppling Saddam by
      force could trigger civil war in Iraq among rival
      Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Kurds and rock the
      stability of Saudi Arabia and other Iraqi neighbors --
      Turkey, Iran and Syria.

      Saudis have said they want the United States to give
      them one last chance to resolve the crisis peacefully
      before the first shot is fired. Foreign Minister
      Prince Saud has visited Washington, Paris, London and
      several Arab capitals, looking for backing for the
      no-war option.

      Saudi officials insist their government is not
      actively involved in some of the scenarios reported in
      the Middle East for a peaceful way out -- encouraging
      Saddam to go into exile or working with Iraqi generals
      to topple him. They say Saddam's fate is up to the

      However, one option Arabs are considering is to offer
      amnesty to some of Saddam's generals in hopes of
      encouraging them to overthrow him.

      Such a move would also keep the Iraqi army intact to
      maintain order in a post-Saddam Iraq and prevent civil

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