Saudis Tell Cohen Palestinians Should Be Protected : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saudis Tell Cohen Palestinians Should Be Protected By Tabassum Zakaria Nov 19 3:19pm ET

RIYADH (Reuters) - Defense Secretary William Cohen and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah agreed in talks Sunday that a way had to be found to stop violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said.

``There was a clear sense of concern on both sides that we have to find a solution to this crisis in order to prevent it from getting worse,'' said Bacon, calling the talks amicable.

``The Secretary represented that he thought this was serious and that everybody in the region should work hard to bring the Palestinians and Israelis to the peace table,'' Bacon said.

``The Saudis agree,'' he told reporters.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials. The Saudi Press Agency SPA briefly announced that Cohen had separate talks with Kind Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah and Defense Minister Prince Sultan but gave no details of the conversations.

However, a diplomatic source in the kingdom said Saudi officials ``demanded international protection for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and that Israel abide by its peace commitments.''

The Palestinian ambassador in Riyadh Mustafa Hashem al-Sheikh also said the Saudi leaders raised with Cohen Palestinian demands for an international force to protect Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israeli forces.

The Saudi leaders raised the subject both with Cohen and with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Sheikh told Reuters.


Arab discontent is boiling over Washington's position in the current seven-week wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in which at least 239 people have died, more than 90 percent of them Palestinians.

Arab states believe the United States has shown bias toward Israel in dealing with the issue.

Abdullah, the day-to-day ruler of the world's largest oil producer, said at an Islamic summit this month in Qatar that the United States bore a special responsibility for the collapse of the Middle East peace process.

Cohen said in Kuwait earlier that the small Gulf state freed from Iraqi occupation in 1991 by a U.S.-led alliance was protecting U.S. troops stationed there from guerrilla attacks.

Kuwait announced last month the arrest of an alleged Islamist guerrilla ring with large quantities of explosives. They are suspected of plotting attacks on U.S. and other targets in Kuwait and abroad.

Cohen's spokesman also said he and Abdullah discussed the U.S. presidential election which is so close a contest that no winner has been declared nearly two weeks after the vote.

``They're (Saudis) very interested in the state of play, very interested in the assessment of how it will turn out,'' Bacon said.

``The secretary made it very clear we're not dealing with a constitutional crisis, we're dealing with a constitutional process'' which ultimately would be sorted out, Bacon said.


Cohen has stressed on his nine-stop visit to Gulf states and the Middle East that no matter who wins the U.S. election, the United States will remain committed to the region.

Bacon said there was no discussion with Saudi leaders about U.S. forces based in the kingdom. The United States flies patrols over a no-fly zone in southern Iraq from bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and U.S. warships in the Gulf.

Cohen and Abdullah also discussed terrorism and a car bomb in Riyadh that killed a British man, Bacon said. It has not been determined yet who was responsible for the attack.

``The issue of terrorism was discussed as something we have to control,'' Bacon said. Saudi-exile Osama bin Laden's name came up in a general context, he said.

U.S. authorities are investigating whether the October 12 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen was linked to bin Laden.

There has not yet been a determination of responsibility for the attack, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Cohen also discussed terrorism with Kuwait earlier on Sunday. U.S. troops are on heightened alert after the attack on the Cole.

-- Martin Thompson (, November 19, 2000

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