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Middle East
Egypt envoy in historic Iraq visit
Arab nations are restoring ties after more than five years of war in Iraq.
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2008 03:21 GMT
Ahmed Abul Gheit, left, and Hoshyar Zebari, right, hope to restore diplomatic ties [AFP]

Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, has arrived in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad for a one-day surprise visit.

Abul Gheit will spend Sunday in Baghdad to strengthen relations in the latest sign that Arab nations are restoring ties with Iraq after more than five years of war in the country.

Accompanying the foreign minister was Sameh Fahmi, Egypt's oil minister.

Egypt broke relations with Iraq in 1977, following Iraq's criticism of a decision made by Anwar Sadat, the late Egyptian president, to set up peace initiatives with Israel.

While Iraq had repeatedly called for restoring ties with Egypt, Iraqi-Egyptian relations broke again in 1990 after Egypt joined the UN coalition forcing Iraq out of Kuwait during the Iraq-Kuwait war.

"We feel it is the proper time to come to Iraq and launch deeper Iraq-Egypt relations," Abul Gheit said.

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, said both nations could benefit from better ties and that Baghdad was looking for help from Cairo to develop Iraq's war-battered infrastructure.

"We can both benefit from our relations, and Egypt can also help us with infrastructure and agriculture," Zebari said.

Officials from other Arab nations have also started to visit Iraq, but are moving slowly to revive diplomatic ties in part due to fears that diplomats might be attacked.

Ihab al-Sharif, Egypt's envoy to Iraq, was kidnapped and killed shortly after he arrived in July 2005.

Reviving ties

Abul Gheit had said in May that Egypt was ready to send a fact-finding delegation to Baghdad to evaluate security for opening an embassy.

"When we set up an embassy in Iraq, we want to guarantee that conditions will be favourable and that its security will not be undermined," he said at the time.

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, appeaed to Sunni Arab states in April to help stabilise Iraq by living up to pledges to forgive his country's debts, erasing war reparations and reopening embassies in Baghdad.

Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have already named ambassadors to Baghdad and some Arab leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah II, have made surprise visits to the country.

Washington's regional foe Syria also named an ambassador to Iraq in September.

Nasir Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti prime minister, said in September that he had accepted an invitation to Iraq, while Saudi Arabia has said it i waiting for security to improve.

Source:
Agencies
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