MOSCOW - Visiting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Friday reaffirmed his nation's firm dismissal of Iraq's call for an Arab oil embargo, saying petroleum should not be used as a weapon.
"Oil isn't a weapon like a cannon or tank, it's a resource essential for national economies," al-Faisal said at a Moscow news conference. "Saudi Arabia will continue supporting the Intifada of the Palestinian people and oil will provide the resources for that."
Iraq halted oil shipments to world markets earlier this month in a show of support for the Palestinians, and urged other Arab countries to join the embargo to pressure the United States to force Israel to end its military offensive in the West Bank.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also called on all Muslim oil-producing states to halt supplies to countries supporting Israel.
Participation by Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil producer, would be essential for the boycott to be effective, and the kingdom has staunchly opposed it. In November 2000, Saudi Arabia led the adoption of a pledge by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major exporters that oil would not be used as a political weapon.
"Oil is a material for investment, welfare and development of civilization," al-Faisal said Friday.
On Thursday, Al-Faisal discussed Mideast peace efforts with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Israel's persistent efforts to "continue repression against the Palestinians and liquidate the Palestinian autonomy under the pretext of fighting terrorism can only spread the seeds of extremism not only in Palestine, but in other parts of the Arab world," al-Faisal said Friday.
He thanked Russia for supporting the Saudi peace plan endorsed last month by the Arab League summit in Beirut. The plan offers Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a full retreat from war-won lands and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Russia is an official sponsor of the Mideast peace process, but it has played a minor role compared to the United States.
During his trip to Moscow, al-Faisal also discussed the situation around Iraq, which Putin called a "sensitive point." The United States has declared Iraq part of an "axis of evil" and hinted it may be a future target of the anti-terror campaign - an embarrassment to Russia, which has traditionally had close ties with Baghdad.
"If Iraq fulfills the demands of the world community, it will help avert the strikes," al-Faisal said, dodging a question about how his nation would react to possible strikes.