The Saudi Chief of Staff Gen. Saleh ibn Ali Al-Mohayya denied in remarks published Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has changed its stand on military collaboration with the United States and asked the US troops to leave its territory.
"The reports that were published in the press are not accurate," Gen. Mohayya told Okaz daily. "There is no change in the policy of military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States, especially in the fields of programs and training."
According to Arab News daily, the top Saudi army officer conveyed about 5,000 troops from Britain, France and the United States are stationed in the Kingdom with the sole purpose of enforcing a no-fly zone over southern Iraq as part of the US policy to contain Saddam Hussein. "The purpose of the presence of American, British and French forces in the Kingdom is to monitor the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. Anything beyond this is untrue. There are no other purposes," he said.
These remarks came amidst doubts over the future of US bases in Saudi Arabia raised after a US lawmaker declared American troops might have to abandon the Prince Sultan Airbase in Al-Kharj due to restrictions on military personnel.
The Washington Post on Friday quoted an anonymous Saudi official as saying that the United States had "overstayed its welcome" and its forces had become a political liability.
The report followed comments by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said after a visit to the Kingdom: "I am left with a sort of an uneasy feeling that we’re in a place where we’re not particularly wanted." The army might be able to find a place where "we’re much more welcome openly," he added.
Commenting on the statements by Sen. Levin, Gen. Mohayya said: "This talk has been dealt with by the media and it is not accurately based."
Gen. Mohayya said that the number of Western forces in the Kingdom has not changed since the 1991 cease-fire agreement between Iraq and US-led forces that ended the Gulf War.
Gen. Mohayya added the US troops, who first arrived in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, had the prior approval of Riyadh to deploy and that any increase in the number, even on a temporary basis, must be done with the prior consent of the Kingdom.
"There has been no increase in the number of these forces to warrant asking for a reduction," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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