US Has No Legitimate Right to Iraqi Oil

April 20, 2003

The US-led forces that invaded Iraq had no right to exploit its oil and UN sanctions on Iraq should end only when it has a legitimate government, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Saturday. Speaking after a meeting of eight regional states on post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, he said the invading forces must reestablish security and withdraw as soon as possible, allowing Iraqis to form their own government. The group of eight - including all six of Iraq's neighbours - have been meeting in Saudi Arabia on a day marked by huge anti-American demonstrations throughout occupied Iraq. In a joint statement released early Saturday morning, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that the US-led forces who invaded Iraq had no legitimate right to exploit its oil. He added that UN sanctions should end only when Iraq has a legitimate government.

"Now Iraq is under an occupying power and any request for lifting sanctions must come when there is a legitimate government which represents the people... and which can comply with its duties towards lifting sanctions," Prince Saud told reporters after the meeting of eight regional states. "(The ministers) affirmed that the Iraqi people should administer and govern their country by themselves, and any exploitation of their natural resources should be in conformity with the will of the legitimate Iraqi government and its people," the prince said, reading from a joint statement after the talks.

The Riyadh meeting consisted of Iraq's neighbours and other Arab states concerned about the political ramifications of a long-term US occupation. They held talks on Friday and into early Saturday morning aimed at coming up with a united position on a national government that will hasten the withdrawal of US forces. The foreign ministers of Iraq's six neighbours - Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - along with Egypt and current Arab League chairman Bahrain, asked that US troops leave Iraq "as soon as possible" even as they disagreed on other key points. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher hinted at the differences among the participants. "There could be divergent analyses (of the situation)," he said without elaborating. The differences relate to the status of the Kurds in the north, Turkish demands on oil from the city of Kirkuk and the identity of certain figures tipped to become members of a future Iraqi government, a participating diplomat said.

Participants in the meeting hoped it would provide a consensus that will help start negotiations with the US and give the region's countries a greater say in the running of Iraq. The Saudi Foreign Minister said in an opening address that the closed-door talks would focus on "certain principles that would serve as the basis for contacts with the international parties" that are now players in Iraq. "We call on the occupying authority, which we hope will withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible, to quickly put in place an interim government with a view to putting in place a constitutional government," Prince Saud said.

"Iraq's territory and wealth belong to Iraqis," he said, adding that the United Nations must play a key role in the country. Washington's threats against Syria were also criticised by the opening statement. "We absolutely refuse the recent threat against Syria which can only increase the likelihood of a new circle of war and hatred, especially in light of the continuing deterioration of the Palestinian situation," said the statement, read out by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

"We call on the United States to use dialogue with Syria and to activate the (Middle East) peace process," it said, welcoming a possible visit to Syria by US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Iran, a member of US President George Bush's 'axis of evil', said it remains unworried about being attacked by Washington. "We do not have such a concern because the situation in Iraq was a totally different story," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said.

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