Cohen Holds Talks in Saudi on Efforts to Avoid Spread of Mideast Violence

Published November 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

US Defense Secretary William Cohen held talks with the Saudi leadership in Riyadh Sunday in efforts to prevent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from spilling over into the region. 

The talks with Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, ahead of a meeting with King Fahd, "dealt primarily with the Middle East conflict," Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon told reporters. 

"The defense secretary is very serious that everybody in the region should work hard to stop the violence so that it does not expand into a broader conflict and The Saudis agreed," he said. 

"There is a clear sense of concern on both sides," Bacon said, adding that the talks were "very amicable". 

In Amman, meanwhile, an Israeli diplomat was shot and wounded on Sunday in an attack claimed by a pro-Palestinian Islamist group demanding Jordan break diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. 

Bacon said the unresolved US presidential election also figured high in the talks in Riyadh, the fifth leg of Cohen's Middle East tour. "They (the Saudis) are very interested in the US elections," the spokesman said. 

A Saudi newspaper, meanwhile, which reflects the official view like the rest of the kingdom's press, was dismissive of the international community's efforts to halt the deadly Israeli-Palestinian clashes. 

"The world watches silently the unfolding Palestinian tragedy," said the English-language Saudi Gazette. 

Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly critical of US policy in the region since the clashes broke out at the end of September. The violence has cost more than 240 lives, most of them Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire. 

Cohen, whose country is the main broker of the Arab-Israeli peace process that has been brought to its knees by the violence, also raised the issue of terrorism in Riyadh as well as during his brief visit to Kuwait earlier the same day. 

"The name of (alleged terrorist mastermind Osama) bin Laden came up in the conversation. Terrorism was discussed in a broad way" between Cohen and Prince Abdullah, said Bacon. 

US forces in most of the Gulf Arab monarchies have been placed on maximum alert following the October 12 bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port city of Aden that killed 17 sailors. 

Cohen was to return to Oman for a meeting with Sultan Qaboos on Monday before traveling on to Egypt, Jordan and Israel. He has also visited Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar since Thursday -- RIYADH (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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