Egypt responds to Saudi appeal for special forces with 'polite no'
ABU DHABI — Egypt has shelved a request by Saudi Arabia for troops to battle Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels from Yemen.
Arab diplomatic sources said Egypt has refused to respond to a Saudi request for special operations forces that could search and destroy mountain lairs of the Believing Youth in the southern Arab kingdom.
The sources said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has told Saudi leaders he would examine Riyad's request, but that Cairo was fighting its own insurgency groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
"It was a polite no," a diplomat said.
"The Saudis are simply not equipped to fight such a war, and with the exception of Jordan nobody is helping them," another diplomatic source said. "The Americans are advising Saudi troops, but they don't know the region."
So far, Jordan has sent hundreds of elite combat forces to help battle the Believing Youth, the sources said. But the Jordanians were not said to have achieved the Saudi goal to repel incursions by the Yemeni rebels, who have also taken over several border villages. At least 20,000 people have fled more than 240 villages in southern Saudi Arabia.
The sources said the Saudi military has been hard-pressed to defeat the offensive by the Iranian-backed Believing Youth in the Arab kingdom. They said the Shi'ite rebels were using mountain strongholds along the 1,500-kilometer Saudi-Yemeni border to penetrate deep into Saudi Arabia and reach the huge Shi'ite population in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
On Dec. 22, Mubarak held talks with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyad during a session said to focus on the Shi'ite rebellion. In the 1960s, Egypt contributed thousands of troops to the Saudi war against Yemen.
On Dec. 22, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan reported Saudi casualties in the war against the Believing Youth. Khaled said 73 Saudis have been killed, 400 injured and 26 others missing during clashes with the Shi'ite rebels.
"They have 24 hours to surrender, or we will destroy them," Khaled said.