Iraqi premier leaves for Kuwait for key regional meeting

Other News Materials 21 April 2008 15:20 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki headed for Kuwait on Monday to take part in a conference of Iraq's neighbours that will discuss security and political developments in his country, according to a government statement.

The conference, taking place Tuesday, is the third of its kind after similar gatherings in Egypt and Turkey last year.

Al-Maliki is expected to ask foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbours along with Egypt and Bahrain to back his country's efforts to restore law and order and not to interfere in its internal affairs, government sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Iraq also seeks stronger diplomatic and economic ties with its neighbours. Arab countries have so far been reluctant to open embassies in Baghdad saying the security situation is still too dangerous.

But Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told reporters Sunday his country was seeking to buy a building in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone for a new embassy.

Brushing aside the suggestion that Kuwait was responding to US pressure, the minister said he did not need "a foreigner to tell him the importance of opening an embassy in Iraq."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will attend the Kuwait meeting, said during a surprise visit to Baghdad on Sunday that Arab countries should live up to their obligations to Iraq.

The US understood Arabs' concerns but the security situation in Iraq has improved, Rice said.

Kuwait's diplomatic mission in Baghdad has been closed since the Iraqi invasion of the country in August 1990 and the US-led Gulf war that led to ousting the Iraqi army in early 1991.

Iraq has reopened its embassy in Kuwait after the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Arab League will send a diplomat to head its mission in Baghdad, the league chief said Sunday before heading for Kuwait.

"The Arab League office in Baghdad is still open and active but has no head," Amr Musa told reporters.

Arab countries are not opening embassies in Baghdad for security rather than political reasons, Mussa said.