SAUDIS PRESS EXILE OPTION ON BAGHDAD
Saddam's only viable long-term option. North Korea has already offered Saddam " a mountain " in which to build a sanctuary.
Saudi Arabia Proposes Exile for Saddam to Stop War
By Fahd al-Frayyan
RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has proposed for the first time that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should go into exile as a last-ditch effort to avert war, a Saudi diplomatic source said on Wednesday.
"The kingdom, and other parties, are exerting maximum effort to prevent a devastating war and they have proposed the idea of exile for Saddam and securing a safe haven for him and his family," the source told Reuters.
The United States has issued Saddam with an ultimatum to quit Iraq with his two sons by early Thursday Baghdad time or face an invasion by some 280,000 U.S. and British troops.
Saddam and his son Qusay have rejected the demand.
Saudi Arabia is the second Gulf Arab state to call for Saddam to step down, but the diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the kingdom was not planning to offer the Iraqi president refuge.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia had already offered sanctuary to "enough people" including Pakistan's former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and former Ugandan President Idi Amin.
The United Arab Emirates proposed earlier this month that the Iraqi leadership should go into exile, but Arab and Islamic summits refused to discuss the initative.
Saudi Arabia fears a war on its neighbor could carve Iraq up along potentially destabilizing ethnic and religious lines. The kingdom, ruled by Sunni Muslims, is especially worried about a Shi'ite Muslim power center emerging along its border.
Saudi Arabia is home to some 5,000 U.S. troops but the kingdom, fearing a backlash from a population already enraged at the United States for its support for Israel, has repeatedly said it would not take any part in a war on its neighbor.
It was not immediately clear if the Saudi exile proposal was intended for domestic consumption or was a serious attempt at persuading Saddam to leave.