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Cheney Meeting Resistance on Iraq Policy - 2002-03-17

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, fresh from a stopoff in Saudi Arabia, held talks in Bahrain trying to drum up support for the American-led war on terrorism. Mr. Cheney is getting criticism, most recently from Saudi Arabia, on the possibility of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

Vice President Cheney was quoted as saying at the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain that the success of liberty and the future of the civilized world now depends on America.

But if that includes attacking Iraq, Saudi Arabia, like much of the Arab world, shows no signs of going for it.

In a recent interview on the U.S. television network ABC, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz said an attack on Iraq is not in the interest of the United States, the region, or the world.

Abdullah El Ashaal, professor of international law and political analyst in Cairo, says Saudi Arabia's attitude against an attack is a mirror image of the rest of the Arab world's opinion. In addition, he says, Saudi Arabia is speaking out now in an effort to save face in the Middle East.

"While the United States is talking about international terrorism, it is trying to implicate Saddam Hussein. But in fact he is not implicated in any form. So this is why Saudi Arabia is voicing the general atmosphere in the Arab world. In addition to that, Saudi Arabia is accused of collaborating closely with the United States while the United States is supporting, blindly, Israel and Sharon."

Into late Saturday, Mr. Cheney and Crown Prince Abdullah discussed the Saudi proposal for peace in the region.

The prince also accepted the vice president's invitation to come to Washington. The prince refused a similar earlier invitation on grounds that the United States was biased in favor of Israel.

Iraq is accused by the United States of developing weapons of mass destruction, something Mr. Al Ashaal says Israel is also doing while America turns a blind eye.

Mr. Cheney is in the midst of an 11-country tour in the region. After talks in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, neither Mr. Cheney nor his spokespeople have discussed the Arab reaction to a possible attack on Iraq.

After Bahrain, the vice president's next stop is scheduled to be Qatar.