Gulf countries on Monday lent their support to a call by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should step down to avert a disastrous war in the region.
In a final statement released after a two-day meeting here, foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said they expressed consideration to UAE President Sheikh Zayed "for his commendable efforts aimed at avoiding harm to the Iraqi people".
The foreign ministers added that it is "necessary to discuss the initiative at the Arab level," which needed further pan-Arab discussion.
The UAE surprised many at the Arab League (AL) summit held in Egypt Saturday by launching the initiative calling for Saddam's exile and putting Iraq under temporary UN and AL tutelage once Saddam had stood down voluntarily.
The United States, with a massive military buildup in the Gulf region ready for a strike on Iraq to disarm Baghdad of weapons of mass destruction, has made it clear that one of preferred alternatives to a war is Saddam's exile.
Although the controversial UAE proposal was not even picked up at the Arab summit, it is gaining support among the Arab world. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have publicly expressed their support to the call for Saddam's exile.
Speaking Sunday on the sidelines of the meeting of the GCC foreign ministers, UAE Foreign Minister Rashid Abdullah El-Noaimi said he would put forward the idea again to the upcoming summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to be held in Qatar Wednesday.