Tags: Middle | Eastern | Countries | Warn | U.S. | Not | Attack

Middle Eastern Countries Warn U.S. Not to Attack Iraq

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

The president recently referred to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the "axis of evil" which has heightened concerns in this region that he intends to strike at Iraq or Iran as his next target in the war against terrorism.

Bush, on an official visit to Japan, said Monday, that he is still keeping his options open and said that lovers of freedom cannot allow dictators to support terrorist organizations.

"People who love freedom understand that we cannot allow nations that aren't transparent, nations with a terrible history, nations that are so dictatorial that they starve their own people - we can't allow them to mate with terrorist organizations," the president told reporters there.

"Freedom-loving people understand that," he said. "They understand that our commitment is not just in Afghanistan, that history has given us a unique opportunity to defend freedom. And we're going to seize the moment, and do it," he added.

Bush also said "all options are on the table" and that the U.S. wanted to resolve "all issues peacefully whether it be Iraq, Iran or North Korea."

Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen warned President Bush over the weekend that he had better not strike out at Iraq.

Although none of the countries mentioned Iran - which is not an Arab nation but a Muslim one - an Israeli analyst said last week that lumping Iran and Iraq together as part of the "axis of evil" had hastened the rapprochement between the two former, bitter enemies.

Syrian President Bashar Assad cautioned that attacking Iraq would lead to uncontrollable trouble in the region.

"As we a neighbor to sisterly Iraq, it would be natural and intuitive to sympathize with it and stand against any strike or military action against it," Assad said in an interview with the Italian daily Coriera de la Sierra, published Sunday.

"I don't think it is in the U.S. interest to create more tension and troubles in the world," he said.

Saudi Arabia, America's strongest ally in the Persian Gulf, also cautioned against U.S. actions against Iraq. The Saudi rulers have been under increasing pressure from within the country to withdraw their support of the U.S., which has a number of air bases in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Naif said that his country would oppose a strike against Iraq.

"The Kingdom is against resolving disputes through wars. We will not under any circumstance support any war against any Arab country," Naif said at a press conference.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh also added his warning, saying that the U.S. would lose its regional allies if it attacked Iraq.

Yemen has assisted the U.S. in hunting down members of the al-Qaeda network that fled to Yemen as a result of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan.

"Such a strike will not be an easy task, because it will lead to a radical change in coalitions in the region, whereby the U.S. will lose its Arab allies," said Saleh in an interview with the Arabic Al- Hayat newspaper.

Nevertheless, he said that Yemen was urging Iraq to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors, in order to "deprive the U.S. of any pretext."

Saleh added that he believed Baghdad would allow the inspectors to return as long as they are not "spies," a reference to Iraqi accusations that the earlier inspectors were kicked out of Iraq because they were involved in spying for the U.S. and Israel.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected assurances from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein that he was not trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Powell said in a television interview that he had heard such claims for the last 10 years.

"If it is a true statement ... there is a simple way to test the proposition: let the inspectors in [to examine the situation]."

Saddam had insisted that Iraq "is not interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction" but rather wanted "to acquire more science to serve ordinary people and humanity at large."

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The president recently referred to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the axis of evil which has heightened concerns in this region that he intends to strike at Iraq or Iran as his next target in the war against terrorism. Bush, on an official visit to Japan, said Monday,...
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2002-00-18
Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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