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Gulf States Meet on Cooperation with US - 2001-09-23

There has been some reluctance on the part of Arab Gulf states to allow the United States full access to their military facilities in the fight against terrorism. Representatives of the Gulf states are meeting Sunday to try to develop a workable partnership with the United States.

While countries throughout the Middle East and the Gulf states say they are anxious to take part in the war on terrorism and have assured Washington of their cooperation, it is far from clear exactly what that cooperation will entail.

The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are meeting in Jeddah to discuss and coordinate their positions.

The issue of foreign troops on Arabian peninsula soil is extremely controversial with both the governments and the public.

Walid Kazziha is a political science professor at the American University in Cairo. He says Middle East countries want to battle terrorism, but are reluctant to do so by overtly supporting the United States. He says each country must seriously consider just what the United States wants them to do.

"To what extent are they supposed to cooperate?" asks Mr. Kazziha. "If it's cooperation, in terms of intelligence, something which is not visible, then I think most of them will go along with that. But, when the issue becomes more visible, and you have to have bases, and American troops are going through, American planes are flying over, then the whole thing would gain a momentum, which would be threatening to some of the regimes and, perhaps, not to others," he added.

Hasan Nafae is the head of the political science department at Cairo University. He says governments must not allow terrorist threats to shape their policies.

"If these terrorists are any way a threat, they will find a time to execute that threat, whether the country will join the coalition or not. What is more important is not the threat of these organizations, it's that any country should not define its own position, vis-a-vis the coalition, according to the threats of the terrorist organizations," explained Mr. Nafae.

Gulf states were instrumental in allowing the U.S. broad military access during the Gulf War to evict Iraq from Kuwait.