UAE to name ambassador to Iraq


"The UAE will announce the nomination of an ambassador in the next few days, and will choose a new site for their embassy," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s office said.

The announcement came during a landmark visit by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayahan, the first by such a high-ranking official from an Arab country in the Gulf since the US-led invasion of 2003.

The official Emirati news agency WAM quoted the foreign minister as confirming the UAE will reopen its embassy and name an ambassador.

Washington has been pressing its Sunni Arab allies to show more support for the Shia-led government by sending ambassadors to Iraq.

The UAE withdrew its most senior diplomat — a charge d’affaires — from Baghdad in May 2006 after one of its diplomats was kidnapped by Islamist militants and held for two weeks before being released.

The UAE embassy has "not been fully functional" since, an Emirati official said.

Sheikh Abdullah, on a previously unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital, held talks with Maliki as well as his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari and President Jalal Talabani.

"Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Baghdad is the first by a foreign minister from any Gulf Cooperation Council country," the Emirati official said, referring to the oil-rich group that also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

At an international meeting on Iraq in Stockholm last week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice encouraged "everyone to increase their diplomatic, economic, social and cultural engagement with the people of Iraq.

"We especially urge Iraq’s neighbours and friends to strengthen these ties through official visits to Iraq, the reopening of embassies and consulates, and the appointment of ambassadors," Rice said.

The Sunni-ruled Arab monarchies of the region have been reluctant to upgrade ties with Iraq, not just because of insecurity in the country but also because of its Shia-led government’s perceived tilt toward non-Arab Shia Iran.

A US official said last week Arab states have been encouraged by a crackdown on Shia militias by Maliki and motivated by a need to check Iranian-backed power play in Lebanon.

The statement from Maliki’s office said the government "wants to have better relations with the Emirates in all areas, and we hope (yesterday’s) visit will mark the beginning of new relations between our two countries, especially in the areas of trade and investment."


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