Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Saudi Arabia In Sensitive Talks With Iran

Masood Farivar, Dow Jones Newswires:
Saudi Arabia is in sensitive talks with Iran, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. said Monday, in cryptically responding to questions about the growing diplomatic row over Iran's nuclear program.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Prince Turki al-Faisal refused to directly answer several questions about Iran, explaining that "we are in the process of discussing things with Iran."

"And the instructions that I have received from my superiors is that as these discussions are continuing that I would decline talking about it in detail," he said. READ MORE

He declined to describe the nature of the talks with Iran or to say whether they included a Russian proposal to move Iranian uranium enrichment to Russia, leaving the impression that the discussions between the two Middle East powerhouses were highly sensitive.

In remarks to an audience of political and business leaders in Phoenix last week, Prince Turki lambasted Iran's uranium enrichment program but also criticized U.S. policy toward countries seeking nuclear weapons as inconsistent. Iran says its enrichment program is for power generation, but Western nations suspect it is designed to make nuclear weapons. The Saudi Ambassador's latest comments came as Iran announced that it was indefinitely postponing scheduled talks with Russian officials about the enrichment proposal.

Prince Turki declined to comment on Iran's role in Iraq, but he struck a surprisingly optimistic note about Iraq, saying the political process had reached a positive turning point.

"They want to benefit from the present rather than look on the past," he said of Iraqis.

Even Iraqi Sunnis forming the backbone of the insurgency in the country have come around to embracing a political solution, he said. In a little noticed development, he said, Iraqi insurgents protected polling stations from foreign fighters, many of them Saudis, during last November's parliamentary elections.

"They did that as a signal that they were willing to be constructive in allowing" Sunnis to achieve full representation, he said. "The fact that the resisted cooperated shows that the people of Iraq want to move forward."

Saudi Arabia is supporting efforts by Iraqi groups to form a national reconciliation government, he said.

-By Masood Farivar, Dow Jones Newswires, 201 938 2094;