RIYADH (AFP) – A leading Saudi newspaper on Saturday ruled out any attempt by the United States to use the oil-rich Gulf kingdom as a launchpad for a possible war on Iran over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Two days before a visit to Saudi Arabia by US President George W. Bush, the pro-government daily Al-Riyadh said: “We refuse to be used to launch wars or tensions with Iran.
“This issue can be solved through diplomatic means and through dialogue,” said the paper which reflects the views of the Saudi authorities.
Bush on Friday began a four-nation Gulf tour as part of a Middle East trip to push for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and rally the support of his allies in the Sunni Muslim oil monarchies against the “threat” he says is posed by Shiite Muslim Iran.
In Israel on Wednesday Bush warned that Iran posed “a threat to world peace” and should not be allowed to develop the know-how to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies seeking to acquire nuclear arms.
“If the president wants to obtain the solidarity of all the Arabs… he must focus, rationally, on the most important issue which is the question of peace,” Al-Riyadh said.
The daily urged Bush “not to preoccupy himself with a danger which US intelligence has qualified as non-existent in the short term.”
A recent US intelligence report said that Iran — which has repeatedly said that its nuclear progamme is civilian — halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003.
“Iran’s supposed danger does not minimise the real danger of Israel, which is among 10 countries in the world to have nuclear weapons,” the Saudi paper said.
Bush is welcome “as a man of peace, not a man of war,” it added.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington escalated on the eve of Bush’s tour over a naval confrontation in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, with the Pentagon saying US warships were threatened by Iranian speedboats.