SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday that it would not allow deposed Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to engage in any political activity from the Kingdom. "This act (of sheltering) should not lead to any kind of activity in Tunisia from the Kingdom ... There are conditions, and no act in this regard will be allowed,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said in an interview with Saudi Television.
Prince Saud reiterated Saudi Arabia’s total support for the Tunisian people. "We support the Tunisian people in reaching their goals," the minister said, expressing his hope that peace and stability would prevail in Tunisia and its people would achieve greater progress, prosperity and freedom. “The Tunisian foreign minister has explained the situation in his country. We all stand by the Tunisian people to achieve their demands,” he said.
Prince Saud said Saudi Arabia agreed to receive Ben Ali in line with an old tradition. “This is not the first time that the Kingdom helps someone seeking protection ... I do not believe that this affects the Tunisian people and their resolve, or it represents an interference in internal affairs," the foreign minister said. Several other leaders who found refuge in Saudi Arabia in the past were allowed in under the same conditions.
In his wide-ranging interview, Prince Saud also disclosed that the Kingdom had abandoned its efforts to mediate in Lebanon's political crisis. He said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad had endeavored in recent months to find a comprehensive solution to the crisis. "When that did not happen, the (king) said he was pulling his hand out."
Prince Saud added that the situation in Lebanon was "dangerous" and could lead to the partitioning of the multiconfessional country. “If such a division happens it would be a big loss for the Arab nation,” he added.
Lebanon is mired in a deep crisis over a dispute between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah over a probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.
Prince Saud said the Arab countries have been facing not only political challenges but also economic problems. “Economic cooperation will help them overcome political challenges,” said Prince Saud, who leads the Kingdom’s delegation to the second Arab Economic Summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort.
Asked about efforts to establish an Arab common market called by King Abdullah, he said: “We have started setting up the foundation for such a common market. The finance minister has told me that the Arab customs union would be ready by 2015 and two years later I think the common market would also be in place,” he said and urged Arab countries to implement the summit’s resolutions. He urged the United Nations to facilitate the entry of funds for the development of East Jerusalem and Al-Asqa Mosque.
Prince Saud said there have been intensive efforts to link Arab countries with a railway system and an electricity power grid. “Work on the power grid project has started in some Arab countries,” he pointed out.
He called upon the Iraqis to stand united to safeguard their country’s unity, independence and sovereignty. “They should not allow other countries to interfere in their internal affairs and all Iraqis should be treated equally before law. All these efforts are essential for stability in Iraq.”
The foreign minister expressed his satisfaction over the peaceful completion of the Sudanese referendum and hoped it would lead to fruitful cooperation between Sudan and the likely new state of South Sudan.