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Saudi: Arab Forces May Enter Iraq

Arab or Muslim forces may be entering Iraq shortly to help secure the war-torn country, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Amir Sa’oud Al-Fei’sal.

During a joint news conference in Jedda with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is currently visiting the region, Al-Fei’sal said Saudis held preliminary discussions with the U.S. on the issue. However, he gave no specifics as to whom the forces would consist of, and under what conditions the forces will be dispatched.

Saudi officials claim the proposal came from the Saudis because Arab nations wish to help Iraq.

The proposal may involve contributions of troops from across the Muslim world but Iraqi officials do not wish to host forces from their neighbors because they fear it will fuel ethnic tensions, according to news reports.

A senior Saudi official said Riyadh has discussed the notion with the countries involved, with Iraqi officials and with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Some 160,000 foreign troops are currently deployed in Iraq. About 140,000 of them are from the U.S. Washington has expressed its initial consent to the idea but wishes to hear more details from Saudi Arabia.

Powell is currently touring the region. Earlier in the week he visited Hungary and Egypt. After his stop in Saudi Arabia he is expected to visit Kuwait and Poland.