Gates, Rice head to region as envoy criticizes Saudi Arabia over Iraq
The US ambassador to the United Nations has accused Saudi Arabia and other US allies in the Middle East of undermining efforts to stop violence in Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad's comments, during a CNN interview on Sunday, follow reports that the US is expected to announce the proposed sale of $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Khalilzad noted he was also referring to Saudi Arabia when he wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times last week that "several of Iraq's neighbours - not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the US - are pursuing destabilising policies". "Yes, well, there is no question that ... Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq," Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Baghdad, said.
The diplomat said that some of Iraq's neighbours were not engaging the government or the Shiite-led majority and had no diplomatic representation in Baghdad. "The level of positive effort that they are making compared to the stakes involved for the region is minimal," he said.
Iraqi officials have openly accused Saudi Arabia of funding Sunni fighters and failing to prevent would-be suicide bombers from crossing the Saudi border into Iraq.
Khalilzad's remarks came a day before Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and Robert Gates, US defence secretary, go to the Middle East to bolster Iraq and discuss arms sales with allies. Rice and Gates will make joint visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia before separate trips to other parts of the region.
The duo "are going to be talking to the Saudis as well as others about what they might do" in supporting the Iraqi government, not only on the security front but also diplomatically and financially, Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, said.