Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of Union Fiasco

Saudi Arabia In Chaos Over Bush Remarks; Millions Pour Into Riyadh To Protest Loss of Kingdom

Country At Standstill, Gridlock; Calls For New Referendum To Decide Own Fate; "Don’t Want To Be Another Iraq"

As the sun rose in Saudi Arabia this morning, millions of Saudi were pouring into the capital of Riyadh, to protest what they believe was a "sellout", following President Bush's remarks during his State of the Union Address, where he alluded to the Saudi Kingdom switching over to democracy.

This caught the monarchy by surprise, as they scrambled to get security in place to protect King and Prime Minister Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud and other members of the Royal Family.

The protests, while very vocal, have been peaceful, with calls for the King Abdallah to reaffirm that Saudi Arabia is, indeed, still a kingdom.

Al-Jazeera is reporting that officials estimate the crowd to be "around two-million".

'We don't want to be another Iraq," offered one protester.

In his State of the Union Address last evening, to a joint session of Congress, President Bush extolled on the spread of democracy and freedom in the Middle East., citing up front, the early success of transforming Iraq, from dictatorship, to democracy.

"In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies in the world. Today there are 122," said the President. "At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations."

"Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal: We seek the end of tyranny in our world."

It was his passage, citing Saudi Arabia, that has caused the uproar.

"Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform. Now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts."

Back in 2005, in a speech to the National Defense University

The State Department offered no comment on the President's statement, and declined to answer questions if this signaled a shift in policy, or if the President was setting a new foreign policy agenda.

There are unconfirmed reports the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was being dispatched to Saudi Arabia, but State Department officials there called it off, not wanting to enflame the situation.

"If not sure what that was," offered veteran independent foreign correspondent, Huntley Haverstock Jr.

"It, kind of, comes out of leftfield … It was more like a rock concert, giving a 'Presidential shout out, to my good friends in the kingdom' kind of thing."

The office for King Abdallah has issued statements throughout the morning, telling his citizens that "nothing has changed", and urging them to return to their homes.

A spokesperson for the monarchy said that President Bush's remarks "were not cleared with us"

"We had no warning, no notice," said the spokesperson. 'If, by chance, we were switching over to being a democratic republic, we certainly would work with the Bush Administration. They've had so many surprises with events in this part of the world, we wouldn't want to add to that."

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