JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, AP -Saudi Arabia”s foreign minister said he is less worried that U.S. policies in Iraq will bring on a civil war there, and pledged anew to contribute $1 billion for rebuilding that war-ravaged country”s shattered infrastructure.
"My fears are much more eased," Prince Saud al-Faisal said Sunday following meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Before Iraqi voters passed a new constitution last month, Saud had told U.S. reporters he worried that sectarian disputes complicated by the U.S. presence in Iraq were pulling the country toward civil war.
He said Saudi Arabia is working to distribute the reconstruction money promised earlier this year, but gave no date for it. The United States has chided Arab states for not doing enough to support post-Saddam Iraq and for being reluctant to open embassies there.
Rice said Saudi Arabia can do more to root out the sources of terror financing, but said the two countries were working together well.
"The reason that countries or leaders are fighting terrorism is not to please us, not to please the United States," Rice said. "It”s because their own people are dying … because their own region is suffering a sense of instability."
She also renewed criticism of Syria for dragging its feet in cooperating with a U.N. investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut last February. Hariri was trying to pull his country away from Syrian domination, and his death launched street protests against Syria”s three-decade political and military control in Lebanon.
"We have to say the Syrians have not yet cooperated," Rice said, dismissing Syrian complaints about the probe and its plans to perform its own investigation.
"That”s just not going to cut it," she said.
Rice”s second visit to Saudi Arabia as secretary of state comes in the middle of a Mideast trip that began in Iraq and Bahrain and also includes Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, where terrorist bombs killed more than 50 people at Western hotels last week.
Saudi Arabia is an important Arab ally estranged by the Sept. 11 attacks four years ago.
Rice”s trip to the conservative Islamic kingdom also recalled another terror attack last December when al-Qaida gunmen stormed into the inner courtyard of a U.S. consulate in this port city, grabbed human shields and killed five people. Four of the attackers were killed.
Saudi Arabia has been working to rebuild a network of political and economic contacts with the United States. President Bush has reached back, inviting Saudi King Abdullah to his Crawford, Texas, ranch for a chummy visit last spring.
The two leaders agreed then to set up a high-level committee, headed by Rice and Saud, to deal with strategic issues. The two inaugurated that initiative during Rice”s visit.
Relations between Riyadh and Washington suffered after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks masterminded by the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, and some U.S. officials blamed the kingdom”s austere branch of Islam, known as Wahhabism, for encouraging hatred of the West, Christians and Jews.
Saudi Arabia believed it was being unjustly blamed for the actions of bin Laden, who seeks to topple the Al Saud monarchy.
Last month, Abdullah called Islamic terrorism "the work of the devil," and said Saudi Arabia will fight it "until we eliminate this scourge."
In the same ABC television interview he also said the kingdom would expand the rights of women, eventually allowing them to drive cars.