First Published: 2004-05-17

Gulf leaders close ranks against terror threat

GCC ignores oil price rocketed to record highs due to fears of violence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq.


Middle East Online

By Suleiman Nimr - JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia

Surrounded by various threats

Leaders of the Gulf Arab oil monarchies vowed here Sunday to close ranks to defeat terror, at a summit overshadowed by a spate of attacks in the host country, but ignored the spike in crude prices.

The leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) "discussed the exacerbation of the terror phenomenon and the continued threat it poses to security and stability," secretary general Abderrahman al-Attiyah said in a statement read at the end of the one-day summit.

The anti-terror pact signed by the alliance's interior ministers on May 4 "expresses the GGC states' clear stand on terrorism and the causes cited (to explain it), and reinforces security cooperation and coordination among member states," Attiyah said.

The heads of state or top officials from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates held their three-hour mid-year consultative summit amid tight security, with roads leading to the meeting venue blocked, gunboats patrolling the Red Sea coast and a helicopter hovering overhead.

The leaders condemned terror attacks that have hit several Saudi cities, chiefly Riyadh but also the industrial port of Yanbu, and voiced "total support for all measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront this alien, misleading group" responsible for the violence.

They were referring to suspected Islamist sympathizers of the Al-Qaeda network who have been blamed for the wave of terror that has killed more than 65 people and injured hundreds in Saudi Arabia over the past year.

They said such "criminal acts" which claimed "innocent civilian lives" have nothing to do with Islam, stressing their rejection of any form of extremism and terrorism and calling for "an intensive international effort to combat and eliminate this worldwide scourge."

With violence raging in Iraq, the GCC leaders denounced the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers that has sparked a world outcry, but in the same breath condemned "terrorist operations" in Iraq, presumably including those that target US-led coalition forces.

"The leaders ... voiced strong condemnation of the inhuman treatment and crimes practised by occupation soldiers against Iraqi prisoners ... and (also) expressed denunciation of terrorist operations in Iraq," Attiyah said.

Only Bahrain and Qatar were represented by their heads of state: King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz played host to the Gulf leaders, who also included Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

The statement read by Attiyah said nothing about the spike in oil prices, which have rocketed to record highs of above 41 dollars a barrel due to fears of violence in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, rising global demand and tight stocks of US gasoline.

The annual consultative meeting, followed in December by a decision-making summit, did not discuss soaring crude prices "because this is not a political issue or one linked to political factors," said one of the Gulf ministers present at the meeting, requesting anonymity.

"Prices are skyrocketing because of conditions on the world oil market and increasing demand, especially in China and the United States," he said.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has called for an increase of 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to OPEC's production ceiling of 23.5 million bpd. But prices still shot Friday to an all-time high of 41.56 dollars a barrel in New York.

Concerns over supply were heightened on world markets after a shooting attack at a Saudi oil facility in Yanbu on May 1 that left six Western employees dead.

Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said Friday there was a "big chance" that an informal meeting of OPEC ministers on the sidelines of an energy summit due May 22-24 in Amsterdam could become a formal meeting of the 11 members in response to the crisis.

The Jeddah gathering had no fixed agenda, but fell just ahead of the rescheduled Arab summit to take place in Tunis on May 22-23 with controversial reforms as the key theme.

The leaders "look to the upcoming Arab summit to achieve all that will safeguard unity of Arab ranks and boost joint Arab action," the statement said.

Most of the GCC states, led by Riyadh, have reiterated that any democratic reform must come from within, rejecting a US-proposed "Greater Middle East Initiative" to spread democracy in the region.

Qatar has however urged the Arabs to study the US plan.


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