updated 4/25/2007 1:33:28 PM ET 2007-04-25T17:33:28

Arab countries will demand that Iraq do more to reach out to its own disgruntled Sunni Arabs, before they pledge substantial aid to the troubled nation, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The festering tensions between Iraq and its neighbors are complicating U.S. efforts to round up key aid — including debt relief — before a summit on May 3-4 in Egypt.

Iraq’s prime minister, on a Mideast tour, said this week that his country would not tolerate other Arab countries setting conditions on Iraq. He also accused some Arab countries of still harboring extremists who infiltrate Iraq to launch attacks.

“We welcome consultations but we won’t accept conditions or dictation,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday in an interview with a group of journalists, including The Associated Press.

But according to the draft document at the summit’s core, the size and form of international aid to Iraq would be contingent on the Iraqi government’s success at reaching certain benchmarks.

“The initiative is based on the pledge of the Iraqi government to implement a patch of political, security and economic commitments,” states the document. “The size and the form of the international aid will be decided according to these (steps).”

Demands, aid linked
Arab diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said al-Maliki had been told during his travels that Arab countries would link their support to a package of demands before they gave substantial help to his government.

U.S. officials would not comment on the document, but Hisham el-Naqib, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, whose country helped draft it, said there were disagreements over what it should say. Key participants were meeting to try to resolve them, he said.

The key issue for Arab countries is greater Iraqi government outreach to disgruntled Sunnis in Iraq. The Sunni-led governments of the Arab world have long been suspicious of Iraq’s new Shiite leadership, blaming it for fueling violence by discriminating against Sunnis.

They also accuse al-Maliki’s government of helping Shiite Iran extend its influence in the Middle East.

At a meeting last month in Saudi Arabia, Arab states demanded Iraq change its constitution and its military to include more Sunnis and end the program that uprooted former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Arabs lament incomplete amnesty
In June, al-Maliki announced a national reconciliation program that offers amnesty to members of the Sunni-led insurgency who are not involved in “terrorist activities,” and amends a law that had removed senior members of Saddam’s Baath Party from their jobs. But Arab countries say those steps were incomplete and never implemented.

Armed Sunni groups in Iraq and some insurgent groups have said they would not join any Iraqi political process until the current al-Maliki government falls.

Other signs of Arab-Iraqi tension have arisen as the summit nears.

Iraqi officials say Saudi Arabia has agreed to write off a large portion of Iraq’s debt to the kingdom. But Kuwait has been unable to muster the support in its parliament to agree to an al-Maliki request to forgive Iraq’s $15 billion debt to it.

Charge and countercharge
Al-Maliki’s claim that Arab countries are harboring extremists is another point of tension.

In the interview Monday, he did not publicly name the countries he accuses of harboring terrorists.

But during private meetings Sunday evening, al-Maliki had an argument with Syria’s representative at the Arab League, in which he accused Syria of “supporting killers,” according to an AP reporter who witnessed the incident.

The Syrian official retorted that countries in the region were worried about the presence of 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and said those killing Iraqi intellectuals in militant attacks are “not al-Qaida but other political sides.”

The debate over the summit document comes at a time when the United States also has set firm benchmarks that it insists al-Maliki’s government must meet.

During a visit to Baghdad last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Iraqi leaders to end sectarian conflict and warned that American troops would not stay on indefinitely if no progress is made.

U.S. seeks debt relief
The State Department’s top Iraq specialist, David Satterfield, has been traveling in the Mideast this week also, sometimes in the same countries where al-Maliki is touring, to press for debt relief and other support.

The first day of next week’s conference, attended by a wide range of governments and groups involved in Iraq, is designed to officially launch an International Compact with Iraq — a five-year plan aimed at strengthening the role of international organizations to stabilize the country’s politics and economy.

The second day’s meetings will be attended by Iraq’s neighbors and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

It remains unclear if Iran will attend the meetings. Iraq’s foreign minister was in Tehran on Wednesday to press the Iranians to participate.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments