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[casi] UAE Proposes Saddam Exile at Summit to Avert War

UAE Proposes Saddam Exile at Summit to Avert War
Sat March 1, 2003 10:11 AM ET

By Edmund Blair and Esmat Salaheddin

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - The United Arab
Emirates proposed on Saturday that Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein and his top aides should go into exile
as Arab leaders held crisis talks in Egypt on ways to
avert war.

It was the first time an Arab state had officially
called on Iraq's leadership to step down and leave
Iraq, a solution which Washington has said could spare
the volatile region another war. Arab states had so
far publicly rejected such ideas as meddling in Iraq's
internal affairs.

Saddam has said he would rather die than go into

Some Arab officials expressed surprise that the
proposal was presented formally, rather than behind
closed doors, suggesting a summit in the public glare
was not the appropriate forum for such a sensitive

While many Arabs would be glad to see the back of
Saddam, calling on a fellow leader to resign and
accept exile is highly controversial. Some Arabs fear
it could set a dangerous precedent in a region where
leaders have few democratic credentials.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the
UAE's idea would be discussed comprehensively at the
summit, which aims to find a peaceful solution to the
crisis over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass

"We are sure that the United Arab Emirates under the
leadership of (President) Sheikh Zaid (bin Sultan
al-Nahayan) will not issue anything that is not in the
Arab interest," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal
told reporters on the sidelines of the summit in
Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.


Palestinian International Cooperation Minister Nabil
Shaath said it would be "very disruptive of the whole
Arab process" if the summit began taking decisions on
countries' leaders. One Arab official asked: "Is the
UAE going to accept any Arab leaders saying Sheikh
Zaid should step down?"

Another delegate said the proposal violated the Arab
League charter, which says members must respect each
other's systems of government and abstain from actions
calculated to change them.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose
country holds the EU's rotating presidency and who is
at the summit, said Arabs had to discuss the idea
before the EU would react.

"But certainly we will support any initiative which
will be very clear and possibly crucial to get full
compliance" with U.N. resolutions requiring Iraq to
disarm, he added.

The UAE's proposal suggested offering the Iraqi
leadership "all suitable privileges to leave (Iraq)
within two weeks after accepting the Arab initiative."

It said Iraq's leaders should get internationally
binding guarantees that they would not be prosecuted
"in any form," and called for a general amnesty for
all Iraqis at home and abroad. It said the Arab
League, in cooperation with the U.N., should supervise
the situation in Iraq for a transitional period.

It was not clear whether any of the leaders would
comment publicly about the proposal at the summit.

In addition to their concerns of a possible domino
effect, Arab leaders are keen to show their policies
are not dictated by foreign powers such as Washington,
which some Arabs believe considers "regime change" in
Iraq only the first step toward a wider regional

At the same time, analysts note that Arab states might
call for Saddam's exile knowing full well he will
probably reject the idea, arguing that Arabs could
thereby show their citizens they had considered all
options to avert a war.

Arab public opinion is firmly opposed to war against
Iraq, and Middle East leaders are fully aware of
potential instability at home if rising numbers of
local protests get out of control.

Several Arab states, such as Kuwait, Qatar and
Bahrain, host U.S. forces and may be springboards for
a war. Saudi Arabia has also been home to U.S. forces
since the 1991 Gulf war.

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