Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saudi Minister Takes Swipe at Arabs Allied to Iran

Saudi Arabia took a swipe at Arab countries which are close to Iran on Saturday when Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal accused some states of compromising their Arab identity through ties with non-Arab countries.

The U.S.-allied kingdom, which fears the rising influence of Shi'ite power Iran, has previously accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, whose Shi'ite-led government is close to Tehran. READ MORE

It also took a controversial public stance against Iranian-backed Hizbollah during its recent battle with Israel in Lebanon, blaming the Shi'ite group for provoking the Jewish state by its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to bargain the release of Arab prisoners.

Syria, which still has land under Israeli occupation, is closely allied to Iran as well as being the most prominent Arab supporter of Hizbollah.

"We face the threat of losing our identity. Clearly some countries establish relations with other parties at the expense of relations between member nations," the Saudi minister, a key member of the royal family, said at a news conference.

"We have a fault in the Arab way of doing things," he added.

Popular support for Iran and Hizbollah is strong around the Arab world, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reflected much popular opinion when he declared Hizbollah the victor in a war in which more than 1,100 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, died.

"To define victory and defeat always requires caution. We welcome the endurance of the Lebanese people in the face of Israel's response that did not match the incident that took place," the veteran Saudi foreign minister said.

"Winning against yourself is always more difficult than winning against the enemy, and what Lebanon needs now is to win against itself," he said.

Saudi Arabia, a major donor to Lebanese reconstruction after its civil war ended in 1990, regards Hizbollah as operating a virtual state within a state and backs the Lebanese government's efforts to extend its control over the whole country.