All Iraqi prisoners to be freed from Saudi jails


The agreement, struck during a visit by national security adviser Mowaffaq Al Rubaie to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, would repatriate the 434 Iraqis being held in Saudi prisons. “It’s a huge step forward in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Rubaie said in a telephone interview.

The agreement must be approved by Iraq’s cabinet and its parliament, he added. Rubaie described the Iraqi prisoners bring held in Saudi Arabia as drug traffickers, Iraqis who had crossed into the Gulf kingdom illegally, and other criminals, including “terrorists”.

He said those who had served less than half their sentences would be put into Iraqi jails, and the rest would be released. The deal comes as Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s Shia-led government, hoping to capitalise on a sharp drop in violence in Iraq, slowly reestabilishes deeper diplomatic relations with its mostly Sunni-led Arab neighbours.

Despite Washington’s pressure on its Arab allies to embrace Baghdad fully, Iraq’s neighbours are moving cautiously. Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah became the first Arab leader to visit Iraq since the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

He was followed by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and Iraqi officials say that Kuwait’s prime minister will visit Iraq after the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan.



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