Arab summit: UAE calls Saddam to step down, Assad slams U.S. policy
The United Arab Emirates called for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to step down to spare the region war, the first Arab country to do so publicly.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, submitted a proposal Saturday at the Arab League summit urging Saddam and the rest of his leadership to give up power in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Sheikh Zayed's proposal likely reflected a minority opinion shared mainly by Gulf countries that have long taken the hardest line against Saddam.
In his letter circulated among journalists at the summit and formally submitted to his fellow leaders, Sheikh Zayed said Arabs should "play a major role in (persuading Saddam to step down), something which might amount to the miracle needed to overcome this looming danger" of war.
Sheikh Zayed did not name Saddam, but said the entire "Iraqi leadership should step down and leave Iraq ... within two weeks of adopting this Arab initiative."
"Regional and international binding legal guarantees should be given to the Iraqi leadership so that it won't be subjected to any form of legal action," Sheikh Zayed said.
Sheikh Zayed proposed that after Saddam's departure, the Arab League and the United Nations should govern until Iraq could return to "its normal situation according to the will of the brotherly Iraqi people."
In contrast, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a speech during the opening session of the summit, said it was a mistake to identify the Iraqi leadership as the source of the crisis. Assad accused the United States of being interested not in toppling a dictatorial regime, but in securing Iraq's "oil and redrawing the region's map and destroying Iraq's infrastructure."
"We are all targeted ... we are all in danger," Assad said.
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)