Report: Saudi Arabia to ask US to withdraw military presence; Kingdom to engage in democratic reforms
The leaders of the Saudi Kingdom have made comprehensive decisions to prepare for an era of military disengagement from Washington, to enact what Saudi officials describe as the first significant democratic reforms at home, and to rein in the conservative clergy that has shared power in Saudi Arabia, according to The New York Times.
In its Sunday edition, the daily reported that high-level members of the Saudi royal family said the decisions, reached last month are the outcome of an ongoing debate over Saudi Arabia's future and have not yet been publicly announced.
However, these princes added that Crown Prince Abdullah would ask US President George W. Bush to withdraw all American armed forces from Saudi Arabia as soon as the campaign to disarm Iraq has concluded.
Saudi officials said the pullout of American soldiers would set the stage for an announcement that Saudis - but probably not women, at least initially - would begin electing representatives to provincial assemblies and then to a national assembly, the Times cited Saudi officials as saying.
The goal would be the gradual expansion, over a period of six years, of democratic writ until a fully democratic national assembly emerged, one top official said.
The Saudi reform debate, according to one participant, has taken place in an atmosphere of opposition from senior princes, including Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz and Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.
However, one royal family member said that despite opposing opinions, senior princes "will support the decisions of Prince Abdullah when he makes them because "the royal family will always stick together, especially in times of crisis." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)