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Saudi says Israel attacks threaten wider war

July 25, 2006

By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH (Reuters) – Egypt and Saudi Arabia, facing popular
anger over Israel’s offensive in Lebanon, toughened their
stance on Tuesday, warning the United States that Israeli
militarism could lead to a wider conflict in the region.

“Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option
fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other
option but war,” state-owned media quoted Saudi’s King Abdullah
as saying before a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak.

His remarks were unusually forthright for the world’s top
oil exporter, which has called for ceasefire but blamed
Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrilla group for the crisis that has so
far killed at least 413 people in Lebanon and 42 Israelis.

The comments also appeared to be aimed at the United
States, Israel’s ally which has resisted calls for an immediate
ceasefire.

Analysts say Washington’s Arab allies, including Saudi
Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, fear popular anger against Israel
could escalate and force them to take a tougher stance.

Mubarak took a swipe at U.S. policy telling reporters in
Cairo: “What is happening in the region is destructive chaos,
not creative chaos.”

Washington has rebuffed calls for an immediate ceasefire,
arguing that would allow Hizbollah to re-arm and attack Israel
again in future.

Mubarak left Saudi Arabia after meeting King Abdullah
without speaking to the media. Officials said the talks were to
prepare for a meeting in Rome on Wednesday to try and end the
fighting.

“The Arabs have declared peace as a strategic choice …
and put forward a clear and fair proposal of land for peace and
have ignored (Arab) extremist calls opposing the peace
proposal,” the king’s statement said. “But patience cannot last
forever.”

He was referring to an initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia
and adopted in a 2002 Arab summit, offering Israel
comprehensive peace in return for land it seized in a 1967 war.

Arab governments have said that since the 1973 Arab-Israeli
war they have decided to pursue peace as a means to end
disputes over occupied land and the status of Palestinians, who
are state-less.

King Abdullah’s comments suggested that Arab governments
could rethink that approach, although analysts say there is no
likelihood that Arab states would go to war with Israel.

CONCERN OVER IRAN

The government of Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia sees Hizbollah,
which is backed by many ordinary Arabs, as a tool for Shi’ite
powerhouse Iran to expand its influence.

But most Arabs see Israel, which does not want to return
all of the Arab territories it seized in 1967, as more of a
threat than Iran, whose help is welcomed.

“I think they (Arab governments) are scared of being
against public opinion which could turn against them,” said a
Western diplomat in Riyadh.

Israel launched its offensive after Hizbollah killed eight
soldiers and abducted two others in a July 12 border raid.

Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million to rebuild Lebanon and
$250 million for the Palestinians. The kingdom will also
transfer $1 billion to Lebanon’s central bank to help its
economy.

The diplomat said the financial support was a sign of a
tussle for influence once the fighting stops in Lebanon between
Iran, backing Hizbollah, and Arab states, behind the
government.

(Additional reporting by Souhail Karam)


Source: reuters



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