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Conference of Gulf countries opposes attack on Iraq

The Conference of the Gulf countries convened in Douha, Qatar, on Saturday with most of the participating delegations declaring what they see as the great importance of expressing their opposition to the attack on Iraq even if these declarations will not have any effect on the intentions of the United States. The following article sums up a front page piece published in the London-based Arabic daily newspaper, “Al-Hayyat”:

The aim of this conference is to discuss cooperation between the Gulf countries, as well as reaching common political stands regarding developments in the Middle East, especially regarding the situation in Iraq.
In his opening speech, the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamd Ibn Khalifa Al Thani, who is also chairman of the conference, emphasized that Qatar and Saudi Arabia should place their differences aside and concentrate on regional cooperation. The Sheikh’s speech was followed by a speech by the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, who heads the Saudi delegation. He expressed Saudi Arabia’s obligation to act toward the success of the conference and to implement its political, economical and security decisions.

During Saturday’s two meetings, there was no apparent controversy regarding the situation in the Middle East. The Amir of Qatar described the situation: “The unusual circumstances require that we unite our efforts to reach an agreement on a common policy, which is important in order to contend with these circumstances”.

The situation in Iraq:

The Amir of Qatar talked of the situation in Iraq and called “to concentrate efforts on solving the crisis through peaceful channels and to make sure that the teams of international inspectors carry out their mission in a neutral and objective fashion”. He also appealed to leaders of Arab states, asking them to discuss the situation and to decide upon a new Arab strategy. He did not, however, present the necessary outlines for the ideal strategy.
During the first meeting, the annual report of the Gulf Cooperation Council was presented. According to this report, the council has diplomatic relations with the American government. The aim of these relations, according to the head of Council, is to “convince the United States to give up the destructive military option against Iraq”. Moreover, the report criticizes Saddam Hussein’s disappointing speech, and it was decided to publish a condemnation against him, albeit one which will not give the U.S. legitimacy to attack Iraq.

Civilian society in the Gulf:

As part of the cooperation between the Persian Gulf countries, the Amir of Qatar requested to further the activities of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He also emphasized the importance of “building the personality of the Man of the Gulf, so that he can withstand the conditions of the new era”. He also requested to develop educational institutions and make them independent, declaring that the involvement of the people is “the most important cause in making our society’s stand possible”. By saying this, the Amir promoted the idea of the “civil society” which is still lacking in the Middle East.

The decisions of the Conference and the Arab criticism:

Presumably, the decisions made in the conference will not call for serious inspection by the U.S or the U.N., and the conference will probably be criticized in the Arab press. In just one of many examples of the criticism toward Arab countries published by The Media Line Ltd., over the past few months, a December 15th caricature shows leaders of Arab countries polishing the boots of an American on his way to Iraq. Such criticism usually focuses on the fact that these countries do a lot of talking and not much doing in order to help the Iraqi and Palestinian peoples.