Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Jordan to Attend Iraq Summit

Jordan's foreign minister said Sunday that Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria will attend a regional summit proposed by Turkey seeking to avert war in Iraq, the official Jordanian news agency reported.

"There is consensus between Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria to attend this summit," the official Jordanian news agency, Petra, quoted Marwan Muasher as saying in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea port of Jiddah.

Muasher was in a Jordanian delegation led by the country's prime minister attending an economic forum in Jiddah. Petra said he made his comments during a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

The agency provided no further details.

Muasher's remarks follow comments made earlier Sunday by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi that the Persian state "welcomes whatever summit at any level to resolve the Iraqi crisis," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

As U.S. and British forces converge on the Middle East for a possible invasion of Iraq, Turkey has invited its fellow Iraqi neighbors plus key Mideast state Egypt to a summit to try to find a peaceful way out of the crisis.

Regional leaders oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq over Baghdad's suspected programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, saying a new Gulf conflict would destabilize further the already volatile Middle East.

Earlier Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa arrived in Saudi Arabia from Iran, meeting top officials in both Gulf states and indicating that his government would attend the summit.

Iranian state television quoted al-Sharaa as saying Syria also was willing to host a meeting of foreign ministers of countries neighboring Iraq "that would precede a higher-level summit in Turkey."

Saudi Arabia, which has its own proposals on Iraq but has not yet publicly outlined them, has yet to officially respond to the Turkish invitation.

Al-Sharaa delivered a message from Syrian President Bashar Assad to Saudi's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah on Sunday and was expected to discuss the summit proposal with Saudi officials. It was not clear if the letter dealt with the Iraqi crisis.

Egypt has said it likely would send a delegation, though Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said it was unlikely any heads of state would attend because of scheduling problems.

Maher said on Sunday he had discussed the invitation with al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, who was due in Egypt on Tuesday for more talks.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who returned to Baghdad on Sunday from a tour of North African states, cautiously welcomed the summit if its aim was to find ways to avert a U.S.-attack on Iraq.

"If this is what the meeting is about, then it is good because individual neighboring nations have been saying that this aggression will create very big problems," Aziz told Iraqi TV.

Libyan leader Moamar Gadhafi, whose country was not among those invited to Turkey, said Saturday he did not believe the meeting would be useful unless it convinces President Bush not to launch a military campaign against Iraq.

"What could this summit do? What is it going to demand from Saddam Hussein after he opened his country for inspections ... and opened his house and his office for inspections? What more are they going to demand from him? Suicide?" Gadhafi told The Associated Press.

Arab newspapers and magazines have reported that Mideast leaders may urge the Iraqi leader to step down and go into exile in a bid to prevent war. But Iraqi Cabinet ministers have said Saddam would fight to the end.

Maher, the Egyptian foreign minister, would not say if the idea would be discussed in Turkey.

"When they convene, we will see," he said. "The goal is how to help the ministers when they meet to solve the problem in a peaceful way, and this is the agenda."

U.N. chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and U.N. nuclear agency head Mohamed ElBaradei arrived in Baghdad on Sunday to press the Iraqi government for more information on its programs of weapons of mass destruction, saying cooperating with the inspectors could help Iraq avoid war.