The new statement on Monday came as Iraq and Egypt tried to mend a rift that erupted after Iraq's government spokesman claimed slain envoy Ihab al-Sherif travelled without security and may have been meeting Iraqi fighters before his Baghdad kidnapping on 2 July.

 

On Saturday, Egypt had demanded an explanation from Iraq. "We do not think that the late martyr (al-Sherif) has made any illegal or inappropriate contacts in Baghdad," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.

 

"We're very sure of the position of the Egyptian government and people.These contacts don't happen with ... the murderers and terrorists," he added.

 

Accusation

 

Zebari accused loyalists of ousted leader Saddam Hussein of being behind the kidnapping and murder of Egypt's envoy.

 

Al-Sherif was seized on 2 July,
and killed soon after

"My own personal conviction is that they are remnants of Saddam's regime. This is information and analysis. They are remnants of the regime that do these things," he said.

 

Zebari denied there was a crisis in ties with Egypt and said Iraq was sending a foreign ministry delegation to Cairo to "reinforce bilateral ties".

 

"There is no crisis in our relations. I do not think Cairo will cut its ties with Iraq. Egypt is the largest Arab country and we hope it will continue to support us," he said.

 

Egypt has long had a strained relationship with Iraq

 

No information

 

Zebari's comments followed Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's statement on Sunday that he had no information on whether al-Sherif was in contact with any armed groups.

 

Al-Jaafari promised to increase security at diplomatic missions and praised Egypt's "brave and courageous move" to boost relations with his government.

 

Egypt, however, has decided to temporarily relocate its diplomatic staff to Jordan because of insecurity and al-Sherif's death.

 

"We're very sure of the position of the Egyptian government and people.These contacts don't happen with ... the murderers and terrorists"

Hoshyar Zebari,
Iraqi foreign minister

Al-Sherif, 51, was posted to Baghdad on 1 June and had not been formally designated as an ambassador.

 

The al-Qaida in Iraq group has claimed in an Internet statement that it killed al-Sherif and accused him of being an "American spy", but no photographic evidence or body has surfaced proving his death.

 

Al-Sherif's abduction and attacks against Pakistani and Bahraini envoys have sent shockwaves through the diplomatic community in Iraq and raised concerns about a possible exodus of diplomats, especially Arab delegations.

 

But the king of neighbouring Jordan said the country would not bow to fears.

 

Zebari said the recent attacks against diplomats in Baghdad were designed to "sever Iraq's relations with the Arab and Islamic countries". But he added that foreign countries shouldn't "hesitate and should send its diplomatic envoys to Baghdad and raise the level of representation".