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Saudi Arabia delays posting ambassador in Iraq

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it would delay sending an ambassador to Baghdad, saying there was no point sending a diplomat who would have to stay inside a "fortress" to stay safe.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it would delay sending an ambassador to Baghdad, saying there was no point sending a diplomat who would end up forced to remain inside a "fortress" to stay safe.

Several of Iraq's mainly Sunni neighbors have sought over the last year to restore ties damaged by Saddam Hussein's rule and the U.S.-led invasion, as violence in Iraq has declined.

But Saudi Arabia is hoping for further security improvements before it posts an ambassador to Baghdad, Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said Tuesday, adding that the country did not want its top diplomat to Iraq forced to stay in a "fortress" without being able to communicate with anyone.

"It's only the security issue," he said. "A diplomat should have the minimum ability to move freely and get in touch with officials and civilians."

And if "no one can communicate with him ... what's the point of taking the risk to send him?" he said. Saud spoke at a joint news conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Senior officials from the Gulf countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from Egypt, have visited Iraq. The Emirates, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Kuwait have also named ambassadors.

Hoping to counter Iranian influence and promote reconciliation between Iraq's rival Sunni and Shiite communities, the U.S. has pressured Arab countries to play a bigger political role in Iraq.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia seeks to keep a high-profile role in the region even as it compete for influence in Iraq with the predominantly Shiite Iran.