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Prince And President Talk Iraq

With renewed U.S. talk of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq raising alarms in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia's ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, came to President's Bush's Texas ranch Tuesday with an urgent message: his nation doesn't want war.

Just hours before the Texas meeting, the foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said the kingdom opposes military action against Iraq.

"We believe that the rhetoric with regards to going to war is way ahead of where the actual policy is," said Adel el-Jubeir. "We have not seen the case made for the use of force at this time. How many troops will it require? How much will it cost? Who will pay for it? How long will the campaign last?"

The White House gave no indication that Mr. Bush answered those questions, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president told Prince Bandar had not yet decided whether to use military action to oust Saddam Hussein.

"He will continue to consult with Saudi Arabia and other nations about steps in the Middle East and Iraq," Fleischer said. "The president made it very clear again that he believes Saddam Hussein is a menace to world peace, a menace to regional peace."

Fleischer said the president and the prince "discussed a variety of issues including the prospects for ... peace in the Middle East," adding they also talked about the war on terrorism and Saudi Arabia's cooperation in the war.

If the U.S. does invade Iraq, Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami says cooperation can mean something more important than just endorsing the war.

"The Saudis have three-million barrels a day of excess capacity of oil, and the most important thing they can do for us in fact, is to stabilize the oil markets," Ajami said.

Meanwhile, the official Saudi Press Agency reported that Mr. Bush telephoned Crown Prince Abdullah to reassure him that relations between the two countries remain strong and talk of their deterioration is "irresponsible."

Recent tensions between both nations had been sparked by "irresponsible statements reflecting the points of view only of those who made them," Mr. Bush reportedly told the crown prince.

Bush administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the quotes were not accurate but the sentiment is the same: Mr. Bush told the crown prince Monday that U.S.-Saudi relations are strong. Specifically, he said a recommendation from a private defense analyst to a Pentagon advisory board did not reflect his views nor the opinion of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The board was told that Saudi Arabia should be given an ultimatum to stop supporting terrorism or face retaliation.

Earlier this month, 700 relatives of Sept. 11 victims filed suit against the Saudi and Sudanese governments and some institutions claiming that they helped finance Osama bin Laden's network and the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit was filed a week after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the U.S. would not have access to Saudi facilities for an attack on Iraq. He also affirmed the kingdom's opposition to an incursion.

Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis but the Bush administration never has held the Saudi government responsible.

However, some members of Congress are not sure about Saudi reliability in the terrorism war. A seven-member House delegation will leave for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to seek clarification of the monarchy's antiterrorism policies.

The Bush administration insists that Saudi Arabia is a valuable ally in the war on terrorism.

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