Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said early on Tuesday there was an Arab consensus to include the Iraqi Governing Council to attend the Arab League's meeting in Cairo.

 

The decision was reached after hours of debate. Baghdad’s interim foreign minister, Iraqi Kurd Hoshyar Zebari, will attend the Arab ministerial meetings due to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

Analysts said the decision could set an important precedent and help determine whether the US-appointed Council will be allowed to fill Iraq's seat at future League meetings and in other bodies, including the UN and OPEC.

 

The Iraqi Governing Council appointed a 25-member cabinet on 1 September.

Temporary

"We agreed on Iraq being represented at the Arab League but on a temporary basis, until a sovereign government is formed," said the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's political department Faruq Qaddumi.

Zebari was invited to attend after a commitment from the Governing Council "to draw up a constitution for Iraq, hold elections and form a national government within a limited period of time", said the League's media director Husam Zaki.

Arab states have been unwilling to formally recognise the Governing Council for fear of endorsing the US-led occupation of Iraq.

Iraq’s right

Zebari arrived in Cairo earlier on Monday intending to participate fully in talks with his Arab counterparts.

Zebari is one of five Kurds in
Iraq's mixed cabinet

On his first overseas trip since becoming foreign minister of the occupied country, Zebari said it was a “legitimate right for Iraq to occupy its seat, to be sitting side by side with its Arab brothers”.

“Our message is that we are the representatives of the de facto Iraqi authorities … Arab countries realise that it is not in their interest to leave Iraq alone or push it into isolation,” he said during a news conference.

Zebari pointed out Kuwait had been allowed to maintain its Arab League seat during the seven months it was occupied by Iraqi forces from 1990 to 1991.

US pressure

Meanwhile, Washington pressed the League to recognise the Iraqi Governing Council.

US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said the Arab League should accept Zebari as an equal.

“I would full hope, and frankly can’t understand, why the Arab League would not want representation of a new Iraqi representative council that will be well on its way to building a free Iraq,” she said in a televised interview on Sunday.