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Saudis have no peace plan, after all, but want peace

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2003

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia backed away Wednesday from an announcement that it had made a peace proposal to the United States and Iraq, saying only that it had offered "general ideas" about ending the war and not a formal initiative.

"We have thoughts and ideas that will not come to fruition unless both agree in principle it is time to stop the fighting," Foreign Minister Prince Saud told reporters. "Saudi Arabia has always thought the war should not have happened in the first place. Perhaps it's a good time to ... think about diplomatic solutions."

On Tuesday, Saud told reporters that the kingdom had made a peace proposal to Iraq and the United States and pledged to "knock on all doors" to get it heard. He did not give further details.

News of a peace plan had baffled both Washington and Baghdad. Saudi Arabia has been quietly aiding the U.S. war effort.

Wednesday, the official Saudi Press Agency issued a clarification from the minister stating "what the kingdom put forward were general ideas it has stressed on more than one occasion, not an initiative."

Russian official backs delay of arms treaty

MOSCOW -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov backed a proposal by some lawmakers to postpone approval of a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, as he accused the United States on Wednesday of trying to destroy Iraq.

Ivanov said he supported delaying authorization of the treaty because the U.S.-led strike could fuel unfair criticism of the pact.

"Maybe now is not the right moment psychologically to bring this document up for ratification," Ivanov said. "If we wait for some time, and concentrate all our efforts on ending the war ... then at a more quiet moment we can quickly deal with this issue."

The treaty, signed in May by Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush, calls on both nations to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads, by 2012.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the treaty this month. The move was widely seen as part of a diplomatic effort to win Russian support for a tougher line against Iraq. But Moscow has only hardened its position, repeatedly criticizing the U.S. military strike.

Egypt accused of rights abuses in war protests

CAIRO -- Human rights groups have accused the Egyptian authorities of detaining hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown on people protesting the war in Iraq, including an opposition member of Parliament who was reportedly beaten so severely by the police Friday that he remained hospitalized on Wednesday.

"The message they want to send is that no one can say no to the government, and what is allowed one day is forbidden the next," said Ayman Nour, a lawyer who represents the injured member of Parliament.

Human rights groups in Cairo and the United States, citing what they said were witness accounts and statements by detainees, said security forces had used electric shocks, sticks and belts to beat prisoners in police stations and in prisons.

Egyptian officials denied that large numbers of protesters had been arrested, saying they have tolerated public gatherings as long as demonstrators have not attacked the police or damaged public property.

Journalists want inquiry on reporter's death

PARIS -- A journalists' watchdog group Wednesday asked U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, the top commander in Iraq, to order an investigation into the death of a British reporter in the war and the disappearance of his two colleagues.

The British TV news network ITN has said it believes its reporter Terry Lloyd was killed Saturday by "friendly fire" from British or American soldiers en route to the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The whereabouts of Lloyd's colleagues, cameraman Fred Nerac, 43, of France and Hussein Osman of Lebanon are unknown.

Also Wednesday...

SWITZERLAND: Authorities rejected a U.S. call to expel Iraq's envoys and shut its embassy.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The foreign minister, Hugo Tolentino Dipp, resigned, saying he disagrees with the president's support for the war in Iraq.

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