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U.S. rejects Saudi view Iraq near disintegration
23 Sep 2005 19:46:09 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - The United States on Friday strongly rejected Saudi fears Iraq is heading toward disintegration and urged Baghdad's neighbors to be more supportive of Iraq's government.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Iraq was heading toward disintegration and he feared other countries in the region would be drawn into the conflict.

Asked to comment on the minister's remarks, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a regular briefing, "All I would say is that we see a situation in Iraq in which the Iraqi people at every opportunity have chosen to pull together in the political process."

Saud met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at her office in the U.S. capital on Thursday, and McCormack said Washington was trying to persuade Baghdad's neighbors to be supportive of Iraq.

Pressed on whether this was a message to Riyadh to send an ambassador to Iraq, he replied, "We have encouraged, I think, all of Iraq's neighbors to support Iraq politically and diplomatically and in whatever way that they can."

The United States has publicly criticized Syria for not doing enough to stop insurgents from entering Iraq, and privately it has also pointed a finger at nations such as Saudi Arabia for not publicly supporting Iraq's government.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country, is concerned that the Iraqi constitution due to be put to a referendum next month could split the country apart and disenfranchise a Sunni minority that lost power after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

McCormack said Washington fully supported a unified Iraq. While "not wanting to undersell the difficulties" there, he said, more and more Sunnis were entering politics.

"What we have seen over time is more and more, including in the Sunni community, decide that their future lay in resolving any disagreements they may have through a peaceful political process," he said.

The Iraq war and U.S.-led occupation have cost nearly 2,000 American lives and thousands of Iraqis have been killed, heightening fears of a sectarian civil war -- a view the Bush administration strongly rejects.

In his comments to journalists on Thursday, the Saudi foreign minister said he did not believe Iraq was engulfed in full-scale civil war, but he said the trend was moving in that direction.

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Sun Oct 30 00:33:13 2005