PARIS — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to US documents leaked by WikiLeaks and published Sunday by daily newspapers.
According to a leaked US cable, published by the New York Times, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz made the call during an April 2008 meeting with US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and US General David Petraeus.
"He told you to 'cut off the head of the snake'," Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, told the US embassy in Riyadh two days after the high-level talks, according to the State Department memo.
"The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq," the memo said.
"The King was particularly adamant on this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program."
But the memo goes on to say other Saudi officials were more cautious about the need for military action, with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abd al-Aziz pushing for sanctions.
"The Foreign Minister, on the other hand, called instead for much more severe US and international sanctions on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on bank lending," the memo said.
"Prince Muqrin echoed these views, emphasizing that some sanctions could be implemented without UN approval. The Foreign Minister also stated that the use of military pressure against Iran should not be ruled out."
The leaked memo could prove embarrassing to Saudi Arabia, which, while known to be nervous of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions, has not publicly called for Western military action against its powerful neighbour.
Reacting to the leaks, a Saudi government advisor who asked not to be identified told AFP: "The whole thing is very negative. It's not good for confidence-building."
Riyadh had been warned by Washington that documents would be leaked, but they had not known in advance exactly what would come out, he added.
Official Saudi government spokesmen were not immediately available.
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