Saudi King Condemns U.S. Occupation of Iraq
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq is “illegal,” and he warned that unless Arab governments settle their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.
The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League summit meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater regional leadership role, partly at American urging. The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.
The Saudis brokered a deal between the two main Palestinian factions last month but one that both Israel and the United States found deeply problematic because it added to the power of the radical group Hamas rather than to the more moderate Fatah. On Wednesday, the king called for an end to the international boycott of the new Palestinian government. The United States and Israel want the boycott continued.
In addition, King Abdullah invited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Riyadh earlier this month while the Americans want him shunned. And in trying to settle the tensions in Lebanon, the Saudis seem willing to negotiate with Iran.
Last week, the Saudi king abruptly canceled his appearance at an April White House dinner planned in his honor, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. The official reason given for the cancellation was a scheduling conflict.
Mustapha Hamarneh, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, said the Saudis are sending Washington a message. “They are telling the U.S. they need to listen to their allies rather than imposing decisions on them and always taking Israel’s side.”
In his speech on Wednesday, the king said: “In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation.. full text