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Saudi mission to Iraq next week to work on embassy reopening
07/08/2007

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it will send a mission to Iraq next week to work on arrangements for the reopening of its embassy in Baghdad, more than four years after the US-led invasion.

"The mission will head for Baghdad next week to look into security conditions there and ... the modalities of opening the embassy," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Saud announced during a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week that a diplomatic mission would go to Iraq to consider reopening the embassy, but he did not say when.

"The opening of the Saudi embassy in Baghdad will be a positive element in boosting relations between the two countries and exploring what the kingdom can do to help Iraq in all fields," Saud said.

The reopening of the embassy would mark a new stage in ties between the Sunni authorities in Riyadh and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Iraq reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia last February. It had been closed in December 1990 on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War when ties were broken off by Saddam Hussein's regime.

The two countries restored diplomatic relations in July 2004, a year after the US-led ouster of the Iraqi dictator. But Saudi Arabia's embassy in Iraq remains shut because of insecurity in the country.

Saud said Riyadh's decision to reopen its embassy in Baghdad follows recent talks with a visiting Iraqi security delegation.

Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie led a team of senior Iraqi security, defence and diplomatic officials that visited Saudi Arabia in July to seek increased cooperation in dealing with terrorism.

Saud said the withdrawal of the main Sunni bloc from the cabinet of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki put the onus on the government to avoid differences that perpetuate violence.

"The withdrawal of the Concord Front ... leads us to emphasize the government's responsibility in seeking to avoid differences which could perpetuate the cycle of violence," he said.

The National Concord Front withdrew its five ministers and its deputy prime minister from Maliki's ruling coalition last Wednesday, dealing a blow to the government's claims to represent all Iraqis.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has been suspicious of the government in Baghdad, fearing it is under the influence of its Shiite regional rival Iran.

But Saud last week dismissed complaints from the US ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, that some neighbours of Iraq, including Saudi Arabia, were undermining efforts to stabilise the war-plagued nation.

 

Saudi mission to Iraq next week to work on embassy reopening -  Source


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