(dpa) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking to entice Arab states to strengthen ties with his country, told a regional meeting held in Kuwait Tuesday that Iraq has overcome divisions and entered a new phase of unity.
The meeting in Kuwait of Iraq's neighbouring countries as well as key regional and international powers is a follow-on from two conferences on Iraq held last year in Egypt and Turkey.
Iraq now, said al-Maliki, is better than it was when the two conferences were held in Sharm el-Sheikh and Istanbul.
The prime minister credited the improvement to his government's efforts to promote national reconciliation and upgrade the capabilities of the Iraqi army as well as the growing cooperation between the people and security bodies.
Surveying the achievements of his government since he took office in May 2006, al-Maliki spoke of successful security crackdowns in restive provinces, such as Anbar and Basra.
A similar offensive is in the offing in the northern Nineveh province, the premier said.
Iraq, backed by the US, is trying to persuade Arab countries to open embassies in Baghdad. The issue was discussed at a meeting of eight Arab foreign ministers and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Bahrain Monday.
Rice and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari pressed hard for Gulf Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan to give more political and economic backing to Baghdad.
"A number of countries around the table talked about their desire to have permanent representatives in Baghdad," Rice said after the meeting.
Rice and Zebari, however, hinted at their frustration with inaction on pledges made by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait to open diplomatic missions in Iraq.
Arab countries are said to be unhappy with the government of Shiite al-Maliki, whose efforts in bridging sectarian and ethnic divisions are perceived as not earnest, analysts think.
There are other reasons for Arab unease. The Jordanian embassy in Baghdad was bombed in 2003 and Egypt's ambassador there was abducted and killed two years later.
Violence in Iraq has recently risen although it ebbed significantly over the past year, which is another reason for Arab reluctance to activate their diplomatic ties with Baghdad.
Participants at the Kuwait conference, however, are expected to back the Iraqi's government's crackdown on Shiite militias and efforts to enforce the rule of law.
Debt relief will also be a central topic with Rice and al-Maliki expected to urge the writing off of debts owed by Iraq mainly to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Much of Iraq's debt has been forgiven by international creditors and the bulk of the remaining 67 billion dollars is owed to those Gulf Arab countries.
Rice said the terms of cancelling some of the debts had long been known and "it is just a matter of getting the negotiations done."