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Iraq's Neighbors Hold Emergency Conference in Saudi Arabia - 2003-04-18


Foreign Ministers from Iraq’s neighboring countries hold an emergency conference in Saudi Arabia – to discuss post-war Iraq. Amy Katz has more.

Foreign Ministers from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – which currently heads the Arab League – traveled to Saudi Arabia for the hastily arranged meeting.

The main topics on the agenda: Restoring stability in Iraq, the humanitarian crisis, reconstruction, and the impact on the whole region of the current U.S. presence there.

NATURAL SOUND (Prince in Arabic)

The Saudi Foreign Minister -- Prince Saud al-Faisal – opened the conference. He sharply criticized the United States for charging that Syria is giving refuge to members of the former Iraqi regime and for saying that Syria possesses chemical weapons. He encouraged dialogue between the U.S. and Syria – with the hopes of avoiding what some fear could lead to further conflict – which could destabilize the region.

The Saudi Foreign Minster also called on the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. And he said an interim government needs to be put in place – with the goal of establishing a constitutional Iraqi government – a goal consistent with Washington’s plans.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Chalabi – a previously exiled Iraqi opposition leader -- held a news conference in Baghdad Friday. He said there will be no long-term U.S. military government in Iraq.

“The role of governing Iraq will be in the hands of Iraqis. I will tell you that this situation must be so of necessity because the state in Iraq has been merged with the party and when the party’s destroyed the state is paralyzed.”

Mr. Chalabi – who is the head of the Iraqi National Congress – added that he believes Iraq will have a new, permanent, democratically elected government within two years. He also said HE does NOT want to serve in an interim government.