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French Version


US, Saudi Arabia back Moussa's Lebanon plan

Arab foreign ministers offer limp support for new american strategy in iraq

The United States and Saudi Arabia welcomed Tuesday an Arab League initiative to resolve the political stalemate in Lebanon and the US secretary of state won tepid Arab backing for a plan to stabilize Iraq.

As part her Arab tour to lobby support for the new strategy on Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Kuwait from Saudi Arabia and began a meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Gulf Arab states dubbed as "GCC+2."

In their final statement, the ministers called on Iran not to meddle in Iraq's affairs and called for Lebanon's sovereignty to be respected.

Earlier, Rice and Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, reiterated their support for the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

"We agreed on the importance of calming down the situation and defusing the existing tension and paving the way to the success of Paris III [donor] conference with support and interest for our two countries," Prince Saud said at a joint conference with Rice in Riyadh.

Rice, who met with Saudi King Abdullah on Monday, underlined the need to "support the government of Fouad Siniora and we will of course have later on this month a conference in Paris that will I think signal the very strong support of the international community for the Lebanese government."

Asked whether Saudi Arabia has agreed to take specific steps to solve the problem in Lebanon in coordination with the United States, Faisal said: "Both of us suggest and welcome the endeavor of the secretary general of the Arab League to find a solution. We are looking forward to the response of the Lebanese factions to this solution, all of us, and previously held in Lebanon and we believe in the necessity to help Lebanon for many objectives ...

"But likewise, like Iraq, we cannot help - outside interests cannot help. The final answer will be for the Lebanese factions. We hope that Lebanon will not be an arena for conflict related to issues for external countries ... We hope that all who want for Lebanon the good to do good or not to do evil."

On Iraq, Prince Saud gave cautious backing to a new US strategy for the war-torn country. "We agree fully with the goals set by the new strategy, which in our view are the goals that - if implemented - would solve the problems that face Iraq," he said.

But he said the Iraqi government needed to play its part.

The government "must stop the resistance, bring everyone into the political process and realize the hopes of the people," he said, adding Shiite militias must be disbanded and the US-backed Constitution, seen as pro-Shiite, revised.

Rice praised Saudi Arabia's role in "urging national reconciliation" in Iraq, and welcomed a greater Arab engagement in efforts to reunify the Iraqis.

Later, Kuwait signaled Arab states' support for the new strategy, saying they hoped President George W. Bush's plan would help stabilize Iraq.

"We expressed our desire to see the president's plan to reinforce American military presence in Baghdad as a vehicle ... to stabilize Baghdad and prevent Iraq from sliding into this ugly war, this civil war," Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah said at a joint news conference with Rice.

"With respect to US policy toward Iran ... the US and the Gulf expressed in [a] joint communique that we call to all countries to refrain from interfering in Iraqi internal affairs," Sheikh Mohammad said after the GCC+2 talks.

"That is something that we are all concerned about. We would like the neighboring countries to work together for peace and stability in Iraq," the Kuwaiti minister said.

The joint communique did not mention Iran by name but said that the two sides wanted to prevent Iraq "becoming a battleground for regional and international powers."

"The participants welcomed the commitment by the United States ... to defend the security of the Gulf, the territorial integrity of Iraq, and to ensure a successful, fair and inclusive political process that engages all Iraqi communities," it said.

The joint statement stressed the need to dismantle militias in Iraq and expressed hope that Maliki's government will "actively engage all components of the Iraqi people in a real political process and act in a manner that ensures inclusiveness."

On Lebanon, the ministers expressed their commitment to "full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701." They called for respecting Lebanon's sovereignty and "non-interference in its internal affairs."

Beirut 17-01-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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