UNITED NATIONS – Saudi Arabia has turned up the pressure on Baghdad, hinting that it might offer its desert installations as a jump-off base for any U.S. military campaign against Iraq -- as long as such an attack had U.N. sanction.
But the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, also said the rest of the world clearly wants the Iraq crisis resolved without "the firing of a single shot."
Saud's statement was issued Sunday in New York as the U.N. General Assembly wrapped up the fourth day of its opening general debate, a day on which other Arab leaders also addressed the explosive impasse over Iraq.
Syria's foreign minister said "blind bias" was focusing global attention on Iraq rather than Israel. Jordan urged Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions and avert "dire consequences" for its people.
Appearing before the General Assembly on Thursday, President Bush called on the U.N. Security Council to take decisive action to pressure Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government into allowing U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq and dismantling any Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or the capacity to build them.
If the United Nations failed to act, Bush made clear, Washington would feel free to attack Iraq on its own.
As the Bush administration in recent months raised this possibility of a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq, the Saudis ruled out use of their bases for such a campaign.
Some 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Saudi Arabia, most at the remote Prince Sultan Air Base. In the 1991 Gulf War, Saudi Arabia was the main base for a half-million-strong, U.S.-led military force that drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait. But since then the Saudis have periodically prohibited the use of their soil for strikes against Iraq and, more recently, limited the use of their bases for the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
The Saudi foreign minister first commented Sunday in an interview with CNN. Asked whether Saudi bases would be available to Washington, Saud replied that if the Security Council adopts a resolution authorizing force against Iraq, "Everybody is obliged to follow through."
Saud said, however, he remained opposed in principle to the use of military force against Iraq or a unilateral American attack.
Later, the Saudi minister issued a more complete statement, saying, "All signatories to the U.N. Charter, including Saudi Arabia, are obligated to abide by the decisions of the Security Council, in particular those taken under Chapter 7 of the Charter."
The U.N. Charter's Chapter 7 authorizes the collective use of force, under the Security Council, in cases of threats to international peace and security.
Saud's statement welcomed Bush's decision to take the case against Iraq to the United Nations, "which will assure consensus in the international community behind a workable plan."
"Whatever threat Iraq poses, it is clear that the will of the international community is to remove that threat in a way that does not require the firing of a single shot or the loss of a single soldier," he said.
Once international consensus is reached, Saud said, the Iraqis will have to respond or "suffer the consequences." Earlier, in an interview with the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, Saud urged the Iraqis to quickly allow inspectors back in, to head off a Security Council ultimatum.
The Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, said here Saturday that he hoped the crisis could be resolved without a new U.N. resolution.
In Sunday's round of General Assembly speeches, the Jordanian foreign minister, representing another Arab neighbor of Iraq, also called on the Baghdad government to implement Security Council resolutions, including the return of U.N. weapons inspectors. Compliance would spare the region "the dire consequences" of war, said Jordan's Marwan Muasher.
A decade ago, the Gulf War devastated the economy of Jordan, which was overrun by refugees and abruptly lost, in Iraq, a vital trading partner.
The Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, accused much of the world of "blind bias" in dealing with Iraq while ignoring what he said was Israel's refusal to abide by international demands.
"Is it reasonable for the world to request Iraq implement Security Council resolutions while some assist Israel in being above international law?" al-Sharaa asked the General Assembly, referring to U.S. support for Israel and to what Arabs see as Israel's disregard of U.N. resolutions calling for it to withdraw from Arab territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war.