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Arab Foreign Ministers Urge Coalition to Stabilize Iraq, Withdraw - 2003-04-19

Foreign ministers from six of Iraq's neighbors and Egypt and Bahrain urged coalition forces to move quickly to stabilize Iraq and then withdraw, so Iraqis can form their own government. The ministers, meeting in Saudi Arabia, also called for the United Nations to play a central role in post-war Iraq.

A statement issued early Saturday said all coalition forces should withdraw as soon as possible, and said the United Nations should have a central role in rebuilding Iraq. The ministers also recommended that U.N. sanctions against Iraq remain in place, until Iraqis are able to govern themselves and make decisions regarding the country's oil wealth.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, said Iraq is full of skilled people who know their country's needs better then anyone else. He said no outside interference would be accepted in Iraqi affairs.

The hastily called meeting began in Riyadh Friday. It brought together foreign ministers from all the countries bordering Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, as well as from Egypt and Bahrain.

Though the conference focused on Iraq, members also addressed the growing discord between the United States and Syria. The United States has accused Syria of harboring members of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's regime and developing its own chemical weapons. Syrian has denied both charges.

The ministers urged a swift withdrawal of U.S. and British forces from Iraq. Prince Saud called on the participating countries to offer immediate humanitarian aid to Iraq, in an effort to help rebuild the country.