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Defense Secretary Praises U.S.-Saudi Relations

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 20, 2000 – Saudi Arabia's second deputy prime minister lauded the contributions to Mideast peace provided by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and praised the partnership between the United States and his country.

Prince Sultan bin Abdullah Al Aziz, who also serves as defense minister, met with Cohen and discussed a wide range of subjects. Cohen said the United States and Saudi Arabia, "have a very strong and enduring relationship."

Working together, the two countries have been able to produce peace and stability in the region, Cohen said. "Whoever succeeds me in this position, I am confident they will carry out the same commitment to peace I and others have made," he said.

The secretary said there are many challenges to Mideast stability. Iraq and the continuing violence between Palestinians and Israelis are two problems that threaten to disrupt the peace.

"It is my hope that both the Israelis and the Palestinians can return to the bargaining table to reach a just and fair resolution, so that peace can be reestablished," he said.

Cohen called on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. inspectors back into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction. "Saddam Hussein holds the key to lift the economic sanctions from Iraq," he said.

Prince Sultan said the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia) believe Iraq "should comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and should allow the return of the international inspection community to Iraq.

"When we are certain that Iraq is doing so, Iraq could return" to a more respected position among Arab nations, and have the sanctions lifted," Prince Sultan said.

Cohen, nearing the last leg of his ninth Middle East trip, sounded hopeful for Mideast peace prospects.

"Based on the countries I've been to, to date, and those I will visit in the next several days, our standing in the Gulf region is still very high," Cohen said. "We enjoy support for the contribution we make to peace and stability and prosperity throughout the Gulf region.

On a personal note, bin Sultan told reporters he'd miss Cohen, who in January is retiring after more than 30 years of public service. Cohen is a hardworking and trusted partner, the Prince said, adding that it would be difficult to replace him.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary William S. Cohen and Saudi Prince Sultan bin Abdullah Al Aziz, who also serves as Saudi Arabia's defense minister, participate in a Nov. 20 news conference in Riyadh. (Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore)   
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