Close ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran should help topple the Iraqi president, a leading opposition figure said Sunday in Kuwait, where Western analysts said overthrowing Saddam Hussein may lead to vacuum.
"The region is witnessing closer Saudi-Iranian and Egyptian-Iranian cooperation. This will contribute in removing a major fear from the consequences of toppling Saddam ," Ayatollah Sayed Modaressi, a leading Iraqi opposition figure, said.
"There has been a fear that overthrowing Saddam may disrupt the power balance in the region. Close Saudi-Iranian ties should help alleviate this concern," Modaressi of the Iran-based Islamic Action Front told a forum in Kuwait.
But Western analysts warned that overthrowing the Iraqi president will leave a political vacuum and may lead to anarchy.
"If he (Saddam Hussein) dies, there will be a power vacuum, and perhaps anarchy," Daniel Byman of the US Rand Corporation told the three-day forum on the future Iraq-Kuwait ties.
"Saddam has shown a great skill for survival. He survived numerous attempts on his life by almost everyone," Byman added.
"Saddam is more firm in power now than he was five years ago. The chances of hell freezing are more than Saddam giving up power," Ahmad Hashem of the US Center for Naval Analysis, said.
He said that the most probable post-Saddam scenario is to have an era best called "Saddamism without Saddam" in which Iraqi leader's younger son Qusai is likely to succeed his father.
But Modaressi said fear from political vacuum, civil war and Iraq's fragmentation if Saddam was toppled is not justified, urging a more firm policy against the Iraqi leader.
Earlier in the day Western and Arab analysts said the decade-old UN sanctions on Iraq have only served to strengthen Saddam Hussein and called for a fresh approach to containing the Iraqi leader.
They warned Saddam's ambitions to control the region had not changed, and he would rebuild his military might if Iraq were allowed direct access to its oil revenue.
"The economic crisis in Iraq did not become a political and security crisis for the regime. Instead, sanctions have turned into a tool to support Saddam," said Mustafa Alani of Britain's Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies.
"No system seems to be working fully. I think it's time to explore some new ideas," said Kenneth Katzman of the US Congressional Research Center.
But Kuwait, which Iraqi troops occupied from August 1990 to February 1991, reiterated that Baghdad's full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions was still the basis for any dealings with Iraq.
A senior US military analyst, however, said the sanctions had given Kuwait and other Gulf Arab states more security assurance by preventing Saddam from rebuilding his military force.
"If the sanctions are lifted, Saddam would need 12 billion dollars to rehabilitate his present force and some 28 to 41 billion dollars to modernize," Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said.
The symposium opened Saturday with Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani calling for a regional initiative to end the biting sanctions on Iraq as an essential step towards achieving peace and stability in the Gulf region.
Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait for seven months before being driven out by a US-led multinational force in the 1991 Gulf War. But the sanctions imposed on Iraq for its invasion remain in place.
Iraq's ruling Baath party on Sunday blasted the Kuwait forum as an act of aggression and foreign interference -- KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
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