News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqArab silence allowed Iran influence in Iraq: FM

Arab silence allowed Iran influence in Iraq: FM

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AFP: Iran’s influence over Iraq was made possible by the absence of decisive Arab involvement in the war-torn country, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari charged Tuesday. CAIRO, Dec 5, 2006 (AFP) – Iran’s influence over Iraq was made possible by the absence of decisive Arab involvement in the war-torn country, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari charged Tuesday.

Zebari, speaking after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, acknowledged regional concerns over the allegedly increasing power Tehran wields in Iraq and said it stemmed from “the lack of an Arab presence” to counter it.

“There is a dire need for Arab countries to support the Iraqi government in order to achieve stability in Iraq,” Zebari, a Sunni Kurd, told reporters before the start of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Iraq.

Shiite Iran has close ties with key members of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government and has frequently been accused by the country’s minority Sunnis of interfering in domestic affairs.

Iraq is sinking ever deeper in a bloody civil conflict pitting mainly insurgent groups from the disempowered Sunni Arab community of deposed leader Saddam Hussein against militia from the long-downtrodden Shiite community.

In a shift in policy, the United States and Britain recently decided to engage archfoes and Iraq neighbours Iran and Syria, in a bid to curb the spiralling sectarian bloodshed.

On Monday, US President George W. Bush spoke with Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the largest bloc in Iraq’s parliament.

Bush spoke “directly about Iran and Syria and the critical need for them to respect Iraqi sovereignty and stop destructive activity that undermines Iraq,” a senior US official said on condition of anonymity.

Zebari also said that a long-awaited Iraqi reconciliation conference would be held soon in Baghdad, but did not give a specific date.

“The Iraqi reconciliation conference will be held soon in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, bringing together the range of political forces in Iraq,” including members of the opposition, he said.

The Arab League-sponsored reconciliation conference — which was meant to mark the return of the Arab League on Iraq’s diplomatic scene — has been repeatedly put off for a year.

Zebari said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would be visiting Cairo next week, and that an invitation had been sent to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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