Pakistan, Saudi hold back Iraq forces

In a snub to their ally, the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have said they will only send troops to Iraq if a request is received from the Iraqi people and a consensus reached among Muslim nations.

    The two leaders agree request must come from Iraqi people

    Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia want to do "what is helpful to Iraq and the people of Iraq," Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, told a joint news conference in Islamabad with his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri.

    But he said the needs for Iraq were "too large for us to meet individually".

    As for sending troops, he said, "If the Iraqi people express their desire it will have to be from the Muslim Ummah (nation) all together."

    "But this expressed opinion from the Iraqi people has not been shown to us and until that time, we will not send troops" the Saudi foreign minister said.

    Public opinion

    Kasuri also reiterated the position of Pakistan where Islamist and opposition parties are bitterly opposed to any Pakistani deployment in the war-ravaged country.

    "If the people of Iraq asked for help, Pakistan, as a brotherly country, will do what it can. We will wait for that to happen and when that happens public opinion in Pakistan will also change," he said. 

    Kasuri said Saudi Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz held "in-depth talks" with President Pervez Musharraf after arriving there on Saturday and there was "a great degree of consensus" between the two countries on key regional and international issues, including problems faced by the Muslim world.

    "If the people of Iraq asked for help, Pakistan, as a brotherly country, will do what it can"

    Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri,
    Pakistani foreign minister

    Abd Allah held another meeting with Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafar Allah Jamali.

    The meeting focused on steps needed to implement decisions of the recently held Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia.

    Not yet

    Musharraf said on Friday that despite a new Security Council resolution authorising a multinational force for Iraq, Pakistan was not yet in a position to contribute troops.

    He said the people of Iraq must show a desire for Muslim troops, or Pakistani troops.

    Washington has asked Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey to deploy soldiers to ease the burden on US forces confronting mounting opposition in Iraq.

    Before leaving for home late on Sunday, the Saudi Crown Prince addressed a civic reception in Islamabad where he stressed the need for unity and tolerance.

    Officials said both countries agreed to increase economic and political cooperation. Saudi Arabia was to give Pakistan $25 million for roadbuilding and had raised development aid from $65 million to $100 million.

    SOURCE: AFP


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