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Gates Assures Saudi King On Iraq

File photo of Saudi King Abdullah. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Bahrain (AFP) Jan 17, 2007
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates assured Saudi King Abdullah Wednesday that the United States wants Iraq to be a barrier to Iranian expansion and urged him to support Iraq's embattled government, a senior US defence official said. Gates, who flew here after meeting with the Saudi king at a royal hunting lodge outside Riyadh, told reporters he wanted to get Abdullah's views on Iran and the situation in the region. "His perspective on these tings is especially what I am interested in," he said. "I think we can always use Saudi cooperation on these issues in the Gulf region."

King Abdullah received Gates at a desert camp at Rawdhat Khuraim, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Riyadh.

Prince Meqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who heads the Saudi intelligence services, was also present, along with the Saudi aviation minister and a deputy defense minister, the US defence official said.

The US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Gates' objective was to win the Saudis' support for President George W. Bush's new Iraq strategy and answer any questions they had.

"They are very nervous about Iraqi politics, nervous about things. But they wanted to hear reassurance from us that we had a strategy, and they expressed their strong hope that we succeed," he said.

"Our Arab friends tend to see Iraq in the context of the new challenge from Iran. That's clearly the Saudi perspective. So the secretary was able to reassure them that we want an Iraq that is a barrier against Iranian expansion," he said.

Gates arged that an inclusive national unity government in Baghdad would be better able to resist outside pressure and that Washington wanted "our Arab friends to help Iraq."

He outlined US moves against Iranian influence in Iraq and the broader Gulf region, citing the deployment of a second aircraft carrier strike group and Patriot missile batteries.

It was unclear whether the Saudis were persuaded, but the US official said Abdullah made clear that the Saudis want the United States to succeed in Iraq but "are nervous about trends."

The military moves in the gulf were announced by Bush last week when he unveiled plans to send more than 20,000 additional US troops to Iraq to try to break a worsening spiral of sectarian violence.

Gates said Wednesday that US commanders have asked for more troops for Afghanistan as well to counter a resurgence of the Taliban, the militant Islamic movement that was ousted from power in December 2001.

The new strategy calls for placing Iraq within a broader regional context, and Gates' brief stop in Riyahd and the Gulf was aimed at rallying US allies in the region against Iran's growing clout.

Gates told reporters the Maliki government "needs, I think, help from other governments in terms of its influence and authority at home."

"So I think anything that governments within the region and outside the region can do, particularly on the economic reconstruction and development side would be immensely helpful to the Maliki government and to the Iraqi people," he said.

Gates quick trip to Riyadh was the first by a visit by US defence secretary since Donald Rumsfeld's in April 2003 when he announced the withdrawal of US air forces from the kingdom less than a month after the US invasion of Iraq.

A former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Gates established his bona fides by reminding his hosts that he worked with them in the 1980s to mount an insurgency against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the official said.

He also said he traveled to Riyadh with Vice President Dick Cheney on August 4, 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to pledge that the United States would come to Saudi Arabia's defence.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

Looking Ahead In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jan 17, 2007
Getting the political situation right in Iraq can only work if security improves. While this may seem like a Sisyphean task with the full support of the international community, particularly America's NATO allies, the United States might be able to stabilize the situation. Turning Iraq into a NATO operation would not be easy nor would it be a panacea, but it could provide enough breathing room to get things back on track.







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