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Iraq neighbors urge U.S. to leave

Prince Saudi Al-Faisal (R) referred to coalition troops as an 'occupying force.'

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- The U.S.-led coalition must bring stability and security to Iraq and then remove its "occupying" forces from the country as quickly as possible, foreign ministers from neighboring countries have said.

After a regional meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh Friday, foreign ministers from eight regional countries called upon the U.S. and Britain to assist Iraqis in formation of a new government also but urged the coalition partners not to try to dictate the internal affairs of the country.

A declaration issued after the meeting also called for a central role for the United Nations in rebuilding post-war Iraq.

Represented at the meeting were six countries that border Iraq -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Jordan -- as well as Egypt and Bahrain.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who repeatedly referred to coalition troops as an "occupying" force, said the troops should leave Iraq "as quickly as possible."

Asked for a timetable, Prince Saud said the timing would be linked to how soon coalition forces could restore security and stability, as required under the Geneva Conventions.

"It's a very tough question to answer, and I think it's something that should have been thought of before the occupation happened," he said. "We have seen what happens when disorder reigns and when you change the situation from order to the disappearing of that order."

"That is one of the things that we have stressed in the communiqué -- the absolute necessity of a return to order, the absolute necessity to stop the vandalism that has affected even the most simple activities of the citizens of the cities of Iraq."

However, given the current security vacuum, Prince Saud said it would be "impractical" for coalition forces to leave Iraq immediately.

"There is a responsibility to preserve security. But that is not a right to stay. That is a responsibility to put in place a situation that will enable and facilitate the withdrawal of the forces," he said.

President Bush has said the United States has no intention of occupying Iraq and would only stay as long as necessary to stabilize the country and dismantle its capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Bush administration officials have also said the United Nations would have a role in Iraqi reconstruction, although coalition countries such as the United States and Britain would take the leading role.

The ministers meeting in Riyadh Friday also endorsed a proposal floated this week by Syria to make the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass destruction. They also criticized recent comments by Bush administration officials accusing Syria of giving refuge to members of the deposed Iraqi regime.

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