Gates: No quick withdrawal from Iraq
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday on the second leg of a trip aimed at winning Arab support regarding Iraq and Palestine. Rice and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and their accompanying delegation met on Tuesday with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
They discussed developments including the Palestinian issue and the need to achieve just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. They also discussed developments in Iraq.
"We discussed how to support a unified Iraq where all Iraqis can live in peace and security," Rice told journalists. She was speaking after Tuesday's meeting that included top diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
With Saudi Arabia accused of allowing insurgents into Iraq to fight US forces, the parties called in a joint statement for "an end to all interference in Iraq." The statement also called for the prevention of "the transit of terrorists to Iraq" and an end to the "supply of arms and training to the militia and extra-governmental groups" in the war-torn country.
Rice warned that if unnamed "determined enemies" were successful "then this whole region is going to be chaotic".
According to AFP, Gates sought to allay what he said were regional fears of a precipitous US withdrawal from Iraq. "There is clearly a concern ... that the US would somehow withdraw precipitously from Iraq, or in some way that is destabilizing to the entire region," Gates said at a joint press conference with Rice.
But, he added, even those at home calling for US troops to quit Iraq were increasingly aware "of the need to take into account the consequences if we make a change in our policy and the dangers inherent in doing it unwisely."