Iraq seeks action from allies at meeting
( AP ) - Iraq's foreign minister said a high-level meeting next month between the country's neighbors and key international supporters will be the most important yet because it could turn promises of help into action.
The high-level meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, will be a follow-up to a May meeting in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, where Iraq's neighbors promised to stop foreign militants from joining Iraq's insurgency - a pledge the United States says has not been met.
Hoshyar Zebari said he expects Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, France, Italy, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to be among the participants at the two-day meeting in Istanbul, which is likely to take place Nov. 2-3.
This time, Zebari said, the Iraqi government has crystalized its ideas and made recommendations in three key areas - security, refugees and energy - and will have a list of achievable measures.
"I think we'll be in a stronger position to tell our neighbors that these are what Iraq needs, and we expect you, in front of this international gathering, to live up to your commitments and your pledges," Zebari said in an interview Saturday night with The Associated Press.
The two-day gathering at Sharm el-Sheik was the warmest yet between Iraq and Arab countries, but suspicions remains between the two sides. Zebari expects the Istanbul meeting to be more productive.
"I think this is the most important meeting ever by Iraq's neighbors, the major international powers," Zebari said. "This meeting is different from all the 10 meetings that we had since 2003, which were just meeting for the sake of meeting and coming out with a statement of intent, of solidarity."
Iraq expects next month's meeting "to deliver, so no more empty words, no more empty promises. We have proposals. ... A statement of intent is no longer accepted. We need action," he said.
Zebari said the Iraqi government wants a commitment from its neighbors "to prevent the flow of foreign fighters" and to improve the screening of people who enter their countries.
Iraq also wants neighboring countries to cooperate with its authorities to share intelligence and information on the activities of terrorist networks, he said.
The country needs a mechanism to report violations, incursions or infiltrations, and effective measures to stop financing and fundraising for terrorist groups in mosques and elsewhere, he said.
According to U.N. statistics, about 1.5 million Iraqis have fled to Syria and 750,000 to Jordan. There are also 150,000 Iraqi refugees in Egypt, 50,000 in Iran and 20,000 in Turkey.
Zebari said Iraq will give Syria $15 million and Jordan $10 million to help their health and education ministries cope with the influx of refugees, and it will also supply crude oil to both countries and rebuild infrastructure.