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Saudi asks Clinton for \'immediate resolution\' on Iran

16 lutego, 2010

Saudi Arabia said it prefers an \"immediate resolution\" to the crisis over Iran\'s nuclear programme rather than sanctions, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared to wrap up a Gulf tour on Tuesday.

Before heading home, Clinton reiterated accusations against Tehran of aiming to build a nuclear bomb, saying "evidence doesn\'t support" Iran\'s assertion that it is pursuing a peaceful atomic programme.

US officials travelling with Clinton on the mission to drum up support for tougher action against Iran expressed satisfaction and said they were "very pleased" following her lengthy talks with King Abdullah on Monday.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal sounded less supportive of further sanctions against the Islamic republic, qualifying such measures as a "long-term solution."

"We see the issue in the shorter term because we are closer to the threat ... We need an immediate resolution," Saud said in a midnight press conference after meetings with his US counterpart. Background: Iran\'s Revolutionary Guards

It was not immediately clear whether Saud, who spoke in English, was calling for a tough and immediate UN Security Council resolution or another solution to the perceived threat from Iran.

A Saudi foreign policy official on Tuesday stressed Riyadh was not advocating military action but rather a linkage with the Middle East peace process as a faster and more effective means to ease tensions in the region.

"There is no point in our spending all our time on sanctions which will not have an effect in the short term. We need something more tangible," he said, asking not to be identified.

"We don\'t want a military strike ... A military strike, we still believe, will be very counter-productive," he said.

"We need to do something on Israel and the Palestinians ... For instance, the US could get Israel to halt (Jewish) settlements" on the occupied West Bank, the official said.

"There is a credibility issue with the US administration on promises it cannot fulfill," he said, referring to the stalled peace process.

Clinton\'s tour of Qatar and Saudi Arabia aimed to isolate Iran from its Arab neighbours in the Gulf and to put pressure on China to drop its resistance to UN sanctions targeting mainly Iran\'s Revolutionary Guards.

Iran last week began enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which Washington and other capitals say adds to evidence that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Related article: Iran slams US efforts to \'dupe\' Gulf states

Tehran denies the charge, insisting the sole goal is peaceful nuclear energy and research.

Prince Saud played down suggestions that the oil-rich kingdom could prod Beijing not to block sanctions against Tehran by guaranteeing Beijing stable oil supplies in the event of disruption from Iran.

However, he said that China, which invests heavily in and imports much of its oil from Iran, "carries its responsibilities" within the Security Council where it holds a veto power.

"And they need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do," Prince Saud added.

At the press conference in Riyadh on Monday night, the veteran Saudi chief diplomat also appeared to endorse Clinton\'s charge, which she made in Qatar earlier the same day, that Iran was turning into a "military dictatorship".

The Revolutionary Guards were "supplanting" the clerical and political leadership in Tehran with a more radical line, she said.

Saud said he was inclined to believe her warnings on the Revolutionary Guards. "I hope that this doesn\'t lead to what it gives an indication of -- which is a very extremist policy," the prince said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hit back on Tuesday, saying Clinton had tried but failed to dupe neighbouring Gulf Arab states about a threat from the Islamic republic.

"We see such approaches as a new deception, although its nature is clear to the people and authorities in the region," the foreign minister said. Related article: Clinton struggles to sell US policies to Qatari student

Clinton was in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah on Tuesday on the last part of her tour, also aimed at gaining support for Washington\'s push for a resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In Jeddah, she met with the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world\'s largest pan-Islamic grouping, introducing the new US envoy to the group.

She also held a "town hall" meeting at the elite private women\'s college Dar al-Hekma, where she was hailed as the world\'s "most popular woman," although she arrived late causing exams to be delayed.

On the bilateral front, Clinton and Saud also discussed the US inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a list of 14 countries whose nationals have to undergo more stringent inspections when travelling to the United States.

"We have agreed to review these measures to find a middle way between security measures and the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights," Prince Saud said.