'US Only Answer for Middle East,' Says Saudi Envoy

July 7, 2008 - 8:23 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Voicing support for U.S. involvement in Iraq, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said the U.S. has a important role to play in the Middle East, "whether it wants to or not."

"It is of vital interest to us as well as the United States that Iraq would remain a unified country," said Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki al-Faisal.

If Iraq were to be divided on ethnic or sectarian lines, he warned, problems in the country would increase three-fold, and there would be "ethnic cleansing on a massive scale."

Faisal talked about the role the U.S. plays in the region at a conference held by the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

"The United States is the only one who can do the right thing for everybody in the Middle East," Faisal said.

"Not only because of the size and strength of the United States, but because the United States is engaged and enmeshed in our political situation and has been for the last 50 years or so, whether it likes it or not," he said.

But Faisal added that it was in U.S. interests for "peace to reign, so we can turn to more fruitful endeavors."

Saudi Arabia, considered by many to be a close ally of the U.S., is ruled by a royal family which has long drawn criticism for violations of human rights and discrimination against those who do not follow the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

On developments in the kingdom, Faisal said: "Saudi Arabia has followed a clear path in its constitutional evolution."

"Saudi Arabia has been progressing towards its own form of representative institutions," said Faisal.

Saudi Arabia's new Baya'ah Council - comprised of members of the royal family - has been developed to establish guidelines for succession of rule in the country, Faisal said. This was a step in the direction of that "constitutional evolution," he added.

Saudi Arabia's political system "fits the needs and aspirations of our people."

The kingdom was "not ready for foreign interpretations of democracy. We will make mistakes along the way for sure, but they will be our mistakes."

Ali Alyami, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, said the Saudi royal family's idea of what is best for the Middle East differed from that of others in the region.

"What he's talking about is silencing all the people he and his family didn't like," Alyami told Cybercast News Service.

"For the Saudi royal family the 'right thing' is to support his family to stay in power forever," he added.

Alyami said the Saudi royal family also wanted to expand its influence in the Middle East.

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