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Sources: Pentagon plans around Saudi bases

From Jamie McIntyre
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon war planning for Iraq includes options that rely on either limited or no access to bases in Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials told CNN Wednesday, adding that the United States expects to be given permission to fly through Saudi air space if it attacks Iraq.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud was quoted by the Associated Press Wednesday as saying, "We have told (The United States) we don't (want) them to use Saudi grounds" for any attack on Iraq.

The statement is in line with Saudi Arabia's public position that any regime change in Iraq should come from the Iraqi people, not outside military action.

Pentagon officials said the government has not asked Saudi Arabia to allow the United States to stage invasion forces on Saudi soil or give permission to launch offensive air strikes from Saudi bases.

"We tend not to ask the Saudi government for anything, unless we know they are going to say yes," one U.S. official told CNN.

Pentagon sources said if the United States goes to war against Iraq, it would hope for support from Saudi Arabia in three areas: overflight rights for attack planes, use of a high-tech command center at Prince Sultan air base; and some logistics and refueling support.

All of these could be provided quietly, while the Saudi government maintained a public stance of neutrality, officials said.

As a back-up, the United States has been outfitting a second air operations center at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, but Pentagon sources said the Saudi center is preferred because of its capacity.




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