WASHINGTON – The Bush administration, fencing with Saudi Arabia (search) on Iraq, says U.S. policy is working to bring the Iraqi people together politically for the benefit of a united country.
"What they deserve is our support," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday while urging Arab countries to give Iraq the diplomatic and political backing it seeks.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal (search), told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Bush administration did not heed some Saudi warnings on occupying Iraq and that he didn't believe a new constitution and elections would solve Iraq's problems.
"Perhaps what they are saying is going to happen," Saud said. "I wish it would happen, but I don't think that a constitution by itself will resolve the issues, or an election by itself will solve the difficult problems."
Saud cautioned that U.S. policies in Iraq risk dividing the country into three separate parts: Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite.
"We have not seen a move inside Iraq that would satisfy us that the national unity of Iraq, and therefore the territorial unity of Iraq, will be assured," he said.
Saud also said that the Saudis were skeptical of the outcome before the United States went to war in Iraq and that their concerns weren't always heeded.
"It is frustrating to see something that is clearly going to happen and you are not listened to by a friend and soon harm comes out of it," he said. "It hurts."
The foreign minister said his kingdom was not ready to send an ambassador to Baghdad because the diplomat would become an immediate target for assassination.
"I doubt that he'd last a day," Saud said.
On Friday the State Department responded with a far-brighter forecast.
"We see a situation in Iraq in which the Iraqi people at every opportunity have chosen to pull together in the political process," McCormack said.
Apart from terrorists and insurgents, "the vast majority of Iraqis at every point ... pull together and come together," he said.
By way of example, McCormack said more than 1 million Sunnis registered to vote. "More and more Iraqis want to participate in the political process," he said.
"We fully support a unified Iraq, an Iraq that is free, an Iraq that is stable and peaceful," the spokesman said. "And that is what we are working with the Iraqi government to try to achieve."