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Saudi Foreign Minister: Kingdom Will Not Allow Use of Its Territory to Attack Iraq

Saudi Arabia will not allow bases on its soil to be used for an attack on Iraq even if the United Nations authorizes military action, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Saudi Arabia earlier ruled out the use of its territory for unilateral U.S. action against Iraq, but had indicated it would cooperate in some way if the U.N. Security Council approved.

In the interview, however, Saud said more clearly that Saudi cooperation would not include permitting use of its territory for strikes against Iraq.

"We will cooperate with the Security Council, but as to entering the conflict or using the facilities as part of the conflict, that is something else," Saud said.

Pressed about whether Saudi bases could be used, he gave a definite "no."

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to comment on the interview.

White House aide Mary Matalin responded obliquely when asked about Saud's comments in a separate interview.

"We have many friends and allies in the region, and we have many friends and allies around the world. There is no doubt that George Bush will not enter into any kind of conflict unless he's sure of victory," she said.

Saud also said his government believed it was still possible to avoid war.

"Iraq has made a very clear and unambiguous promise to the Arab countries that it will abide by the United Nations resolutions," he said.

The Security Council is debating a U.S. proposal to toughen U.N. weapons inspections after Iraq agreed to allow inspectors to return after nearly four years. The United States wants the council to authorize harsh measures against Iraq if it fails to cooperate.

However, Russia, China and France oppose the American proposal, fearing it would give a green light to Washington to attack Iraq without further consultations. Security Council members expect the United States to offer an amended draft resolution this week.

Arab nations have spoken out against unilateral U.S. military intervention to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. They have indicated more willingness to accept such action if the United Nations approves.

Most Arab nations joined the U.S.-led Gulf War coalition that liberated Kuwait in 1991. Saudi Arabia allowed U.S. troops into the oil-rich kingdom to defend it against Iraq. U.S. command-and-control facilities have been based in the kingdom, but Washington is now beefing up a base in the Gulf nation of Qatar.

Arab foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Nov. 10 to discuss how to avert the crisis in Iraq.