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Bush Fails to Capture Saudi Support for Possible Attack

By Edwin Chen
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- crawford, Texas

President Bush met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador Tuesday to mend frayed relations between their two governments but failed to win Saudi support for the possible use of military force to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

A day after Vice President Dick Cheney made the administration’s most compelling case yet for a “regime change” in Baghdad, the Saudis forcefully stated anew their opposition to achieving that aim through military action.

Even before the president welcomed Prince Bandar ibn Sultan and six of his eight children to his Texas ranch, a senior Saudi official in Washington declared that the Bush administration still has not made a cogent case for a pre-emptive strike against Hussein. Instead, Adel Jabeir, foreign policy adviser to Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah, called for a concerted diplomatic initiative.

“We don’t believe that people have thought through all of the consequences of that,” Jubeir said on CNN.

He said the Saudis agree that Hussein is a threat, but added: “What exactly will it take to deal with it? How many troops? Who’s going to pay for it? Where are they going to land? How many years will they have to occupy Iraq? How do you stabilize the country? Are the Kurds going to seek their own state? Is this going to make the Turks nervous? Is this going to destabilize Iran?”

Many U.S. lawmakers of both parties -- and American allies around the world -- are posing similar questions even as the administration this week escalated its saber-rattling.

Jubeir’s comments also stressed that the Saudis, who were key participants in the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Hussein, are unwilling to do the same now. Saudi officials have been “very clear on this with your government for a long time,” he said.

Bush, during his conversation with Bandar, insisted he has made no decisions about how to proceed against Hussein, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.

But, Fleischer added, “The president made very clear again that he believes that Saddam Hussein is a menace to world peace, a menace to regional peace.”

Cheney, in an address Monday to veterans in Nashville, said only a pre-emptive strike against Iraq could prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons “fairly soon.” He also argued that ousting Hussein could bring more stability to the Middle East and enhance the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Cheney’s comments were widely seen as an administration response to skepticism some lawmakers and former foreign policy officials have expressed about the wisdom of military action against Hussein.

Also, some Bush supporters have complained that the administration needed to make a more forceful case for such a policy.