* Saudis urged action at meeting with top U.S. general
* Bahrain said Iranian nuclear program must be stopped
* U.S. says diplomacy remains preferred option
(Repeats with no changes to text)
By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON, Nov 28 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
repeatedly exhorted the United States to "cut off the head of
the snake" by launching military strikes to destroy Iran's
nuclear program, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.
A copy of the cable dated April 20, 2008, was published in
the New York Times website on Sunday after being released by
the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The classified
communication between the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Washington
showed the Saudis feared Shi'ite Iran's rising influence in the
region, particularly in neighboring Iraq.
The United States has repeatedly said that the military
option is on the table, but at the same time U.S. military
chiefs have made clear they view it as a last resort, fearing
it could ignite wider conflict in the Middle East.
The April 2008 cable detailed a meeting between General
David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle
East, and then U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and King
Abdullah and other Saudi princes.
At the meeting, the Saudi ambassador to the United States,
Adel al-Jubeir "recalled the King's frequent exhortations to
the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear
weapons program," the cable said.
"He told you to cut off the head of the snake," Jubeir was
reported to have said.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, however,
pushed for tougher sanctions instead, including a travel ban
and further restrictions on bank lending, although he did not
rule out the need for military action.
The WikiLeaks documents also show U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates believes any military strike on Iran would only
delay its pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years,
the Times reported.
"IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM MUST BE STOPPED"
Saudi Arabia, one of the world's top oil producers, is
concerned about Iran's growing military strength. The United
States announced last month that it plans to sell the kingdom
$60 billion worth of military aircraft to help it bolster its
Britain's Guardian newspaper, one of a number of
publications to have had access to the leaked diplomatic
cables, said the communications also showed that other Arab
allies have secretly agitated for action against Tehran over
its disputed nuclear program.
Another cable, sent from the U.S. Embassy in Manama,
Bahrain, on Nov. 4, 2009, detailed a meeting between Petraeus
and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, whose kingdom is the
headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth fleet. Like Saudi Arabia
it is a Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom.
King Hamad argued "forcefully for taking action to terminate
(Iran's) nuclear program, by whatever means necessary," the
"That program must be stopped," he was quoted as saying.
"The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of
Iran denies its nuclear program is a cover to build a
nuclear bomb and says it is purely for peaceful purposes.
A U.N. Security Council resolution passed in June, imposing
a fourth round of sanctions, renewed a call on Iran to suspend
uranium enrichment, something Tehran has explicitly refused to
do, saying such activity is its right under international law.
The top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said in
comments released on Friday that the U.S. military has been
thinking about military options on Iran "for a significant
period of time", but he stressed that diplomacy remained the
focus of U.S. efforts.
(Reporting by Ross Colvin, additional reporting by Keith Weir
in London; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)