BAGHDAD, Iraq – President Saddam Hussein on Tuesday called for an emergency Arab summit to be held at Islam's holiest city — Mecca in Saudi Arabia — to discuss Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
Saddam asked for Arab unity and warned that the United States and Israel are using the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. as a pretext to destroy Arabs.
"America is encouraging the Zionist entity to kill the Arabs," he said in a call to Arab governments and people carried by the Iraqi News Agency. "The United States and the Zionist entity have one common goal, that is to destroy and humiliate the Arab nation."
"Our position will be better if we are to hold an emergency summit ... in order to exclusively discuss the aggression toward the Palestinians," he was quoted as saying.
The 22-nation Arab League, based in Cairo, Egypt, has held several meetings in the past 14 months to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Though there is broad support for the Palestinian cause and condemnation of Israel, little coordinated action has resulted.
"Let the meeting place be the honorable Kaaba," Saddam said, referring to the cubic stone structure in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. He also said such a meeting could be held in "any Arab capital whose selection secures the presence of all us."
Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The kingdom allowed U.S. troops to use Saudi territory to fight Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War that ousted the Iraqis from Kuwait. In the years since, U.S. planes frequently have flown from Saudi bases to patrol Iraqi skies and bomb targets in southern Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, custodian of the holiest shrines in Islam, allows Iraqis into the country only to participate in the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the hajj. Recently, a 2002 World Cup soccer qualifying match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia was played in nearby Bahrain because the kingdom would not permit the Iraqi team into the country.
Saddam said all differences should be set aside to address the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
"We should only remember the causes and the reasons for our unity in this difficult crisis," he said. "We should try to forget or postpone all that may lead to our division."