Buoyed by worldwide anti-war sentiment, Saudi Arabia, the US key ally in the Gulf, has hardened opposition to a unilateral attack on Iraq, warning that no foreign troops will wage war on Baghdad from the kingdom.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal took the Saudi anti-war stance a step forward by declaring Monday that an attack by the United States on Iraq would be seen by many as an act of aggression.
If the United States went in alone it "would appear as aggression", the foreign minister said in an interview with BBC television news.
"If an attack comes through the UN Security Council, obviously it is not aggression," he said.
The kingdom has maintained that if the Security Council approves war on Baghdad, its decision to join in will be based on the material breach by Iraq of the council's Resolution 1441 and Saudi national interest.
Prince Saud said that "independent action" was not "good for the US. It would encourage people to think that what they are doing is a war of aggression rather than a war for the implementation of the United Nations resolution."
Faisal added: "If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq then you are solving one problem and creating far more problems.
"We live in the region. We will suffer the consequences of any military action."
Saudi political analyst Dawood al-Shurayan commented: "This is a continuation of the Saudi pressure to convince US decision-makers not to wage war against Iraq. Saudi Arabia does not want war because it is aware of its serious consequences."
"But the Saudis do not want to collide head-on with the Americans. They want to caution them from the dangers of war," Shurayan said.
The kingdom's deputy minister of defense, Prince Abdulrahman bin Abdul Aziz, meanwhile asserted that no foreign troops would be allowed to attack any Arab country from Saudi territory.
"Be assured that no one will be allowed to step into Saudi Arabia to fight any Arab country," the prince told Saudi troops and members of the Peninsula Shield forces in the north of the country.
"This is the position of every Saudi official," he said.
The assurance, which may have been intended mainly for domestic consumption in a country totally opposed to an attack on Iraq, followed a telephone conversation between Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and President George W. Bush.
Saudi Arabia served as a springboard for the liberation of Kuwait by a US-led coalition in 1991 and some 5,000 US troops remain in the kingdom, which hosts a major US air command facility at a base outside the capital.
King Fahd and Prince Abdullah said last week they were trying to spare Iraq and the region a US strike.
"We are sparing no effort to shield Iraq, its brotherly people and the region ... from war," they said in a joint speech marking the Muslim Eid al-Adha, or feast of sacrifice.
"We hope efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully will succeed and wisdom prevail," they said in the speech delivered in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.
Saudi newspapers Tuesday purused an anti-war campaign and urged Arabs not to provide any facilities that may endanger the safety of Iraq, in line with a non-binding call by Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo at the weekend.
"Arabs ... are required in these difficult times faced by Iraq to refrain from providing any assistance or facilities that may help to threaten the security, safety and stability of Iraq," Al-Youm newspaper said.
"We must make it very clear ... that any unilateral military action by the United States is a grave mistake."
Al-Jazirah urged Arab leaders to coordinate with the rest of the world, particularly Europe, in order to prevent war.