U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Bush administration understands Arab concerns about possible U.S. military action against Iraq, and will take those concerns into account. He spoke after what was described as a "frank" discussion about the issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister has been among the most vocal Arab officials in expressing concern about a possible U.S. military move against Iraq, concerns heightened by President Bush's tough language about Saddam Hussein's government earlier this week.
In a Washington speech Wednesday, the veteran Egyptian diplomat said U.N. resolutions do not authorize military action against Baghdad for refusing U.N. weapons inspections, and that a U.S. strike would have a negative impact in the Arab world and beyond.
The issue figured prominently in Mr. Maher's meeting here with Secretary Powell, who said at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart that the administration is listening to its Arab allies and others. "We understand the cautions that some of our friends have given us with respect to possible future actions and we will stay in close touch and consultation with our friends," he said.
Mr. Maher, Egypt's former ambassador in Washington, said the dialogue on the issue had been "frank" and will continue: "I think we have made our position very clear. Among friends we have frank discussions about this matter. And the Secretary said that friends and allies of the United States are advising caution. And I think he had heard us. We have been heard. And this has been under discussion, and we'll continue to discuss this matter," he said.
Secretary Powell said the United States and Egypt both support U.N. resolutions requiring Iraq give up weapons of mass destruction, and said both share what he termed "a common understanding of the nature" of the regime in Baghdad and the danger it presents to the region and the world.
The talks here also focussed on the renewed U.S. effort to get an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire and a return to peace negotiations.
The Secretary of State acknowledged disappointment in Arab countries that his Middle East policy speech last week did not include a timetable for securing a truce and reopening peace talks, but he said U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni is discussing such a schedule in his ongoing talks in the area.