Published December 22, 2002
DOHA, Qatar – Gulf nations condemned Saddam Hussein for threatening Kuwait and said Sunday that Mideast peace is possible only if Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories.
The six-state Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose political and economic alliance, convened its annual two-day summit Saturday with four heads of state missing and the threat of war looming over the region.
In its final statement Sunday, the Gulf council lashed out at Saddam for his purported Dec. 7 apology to Kuwaitis, saying the message was an "incitement for the Kuwaiti people against their leadership and government and a support for the terror acts that occurred in Kuwait."
The mention of terrorism was an apparent reference to attacks on U.S. military personnel in Kuwait, including the Oct. 8 killing of a Marine by two Islamic fundamentalists and Al Qaeda sympathizers, who also were killed.
Sunday's communique also urged U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq to work in "an objective and unbiased manner," while calling on the international community to ensure the quick completion of the inspections.
Weapons experts are searching for signs of Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction program. Washington threatens military action against Baghdad if it does not prove it has complied with U.N. Security Council resolutions on disarming its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
The United States has military facilities and forces throughout the Gulf states, and Washington expects to double its troop presence there to about 100,000 by next month.
The statement also condemned terrorism "in all its forms" and criticized Israel for continued aggression against the Palestinians. The statement also called for terrorism to be distinguished from "the people's right to resist occupation," an apparent reference to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
While most Gulf Arabs have no love for Saddam, whose forces occupied Kuwait for seven months from August 1990 and fired missiles into Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, many oppose U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, seen as favoring Israel and bent on strengthening America's role in the region.
Of the Gulf council's six leaders, only Qatar emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sultan Qaboos of Oman attended the Doha meeting. The heads of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stayed away.
Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia downgraded its representation to foreign ministerial level to protest Qatar's refusal to rein in the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite news channel that Saudi Arabia said insulted its royal family.