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Iraq's ambassador back in Damascus as year-long spat ends

Kuwaiti coastguards arrests Iraqi fishermen
Kuwait City (AFP) Oct 10, 2010 - Kuwaiti coastguards have arrested five Iraqi fishermen on board two boats for violating the emirate's territorial waters, an interior ministry official statement said on Sunday. The statement, cited by the official KUNA news agency, said the Kuwaitis intercepted the two vessels for fishing inside their territorial waters. Legal measures have been taken against the five Iraqis, the ministry statement said without elaborating. It did not say when the incident took place.

Iraq PM calls for opponents to return from exile
Baghdad (AFP) Oct 9, 2010 - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for national reconciliation on Saturday, opening the door for former opponents to return home as he struggles to form a new government seven months after polls. His remarks were his first on the subject since the March 7 elections, which were marred by many candidates being disqualified for their alleged ties to executed dictator Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party. They were seen as an olive branch to former party members, many of them living in exile and opposed to the current regime.

"We must ... turn a new page with all those who have gone too far and made mistakes," he told a conference of tribal chiefs in Baghdad in a speech broadcast on state television. "I do not mean those who have blood on their hands, but those who object to the political process," he added. "We can say that what happened has happened and those who made mistakes made mistakes, but the door to return to the country is open. "We forgive and turn the page because the country cannot be built on the basis of hatred and rancour," Maliki said.

His comments come amid a political impasse that has persisted since the March elections in which Maliki's Shiite bloc finished a narrow second behind the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya group of ex-premier Iyad Allawi. Since then, Maliki has joined forces with parliament's third party, also Shiite, to form a coalition. But he still remains 30 seats short of the legislative majority necessary to form a government. Allawi, a secular Shiite, was himself a member of the Baath party until the late-1970s when he left the party and, subsequently, the country. He survived multiple assassination attempts, allegedly by Saddam. Several candidates were barred from taking part in the March elections over their alleged ties to the Baath party, but claimed their disqualifications were politically motivated.
by Staff Writers
Damascus (AFP) Oct 10, 2010
Iraq's ambassador to Syria resumed his duties on Sunday after a year-long spat between the neighbours sparked by massive car bombs Baghdad said were plotted in Damascus, an Iraqi diplomat said.

"The Iraqi ambassador returned to Damascus last night and resumed his duties today (Sunday)," said the diplomat, who declined to be named.

Alaa Hussein al-Jawadi was appointed Iraq's first ambassador in February 2009 when the neighbours re-established diplomatic ties after 28 years.

Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, had been named to his Baghdad post four months earlier.

The envoys were recalled by their respective governments on August 25, 2009, six days after massive truck bombings against the ministries of finance and foreign affairs in Baghdad left 95 dead and around 600 wounded, the worst day of violence in Iraq in 18 months.

Iraq accused Syria of sheltering two insurgents, Mohammed Yunis al-Ahmed and Sattam Farhan, who orchestrated the attacks, charges Damascus denied.

Baghdad's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said last month that the request for the extradition of the two men was still pending, but Iraq believed "relations need to develop with good will from both sides."

Dabbagh added that Baghdad wanted to boost economic ties with Damascus, after the two sides agreed last month to build two oil pipelines linking Iraq to Mediterranean sea ports via Syria for exporting crude.

The diplomatic flap had thrown into disarray extensive efforts made in the previous years to boost ties, which had been weak under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The two countries held failed talks, mediated by Turkey, in the aftermath of the row.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki alleged last year that 90 percent of foreign "terrorists" who infiltrate Iraq did so via Syria.

Iraq also aired a video showing a former police chief confessing to the bombing at the finance ministry and saying he had received orders from Syria-based Baathist bosses.

Diplomatic relations between Damascus and Baghdad were severed in 1980 when the countries were ruled by rival wings of the Baath party and Syria backed Iran in a devastating war with Iraq that broke out that year.

Relations started to thaw in 2000 and the two nations decided in 2006 to resume formal ties, three years after the invasion. In April 2009, Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri made the first trip by a Syrian premier to Iraq since the invasion.

earlier related report
Allawi, Saudi king discuss Iraq
Riyadh (AFP) Oct 10, 2010 - Former Iraqi prime Minister Iyad Allawi held talks on Iraq with Saudi King Abdullah Sunday as Baghdad marked seven months of political stalemate after the March elections.

Allawi and Abdullah "reviewed the current situation in Iraq" in their Riyadh meeting, the official SPA news agency said.

At the meeting also were Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz and Saudi ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir, one of the king's closest foreign policy advisors.

Allawi was widely believed to have enjoyed Saudi support against his rival Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the March 7 polls.

Riyadh believes Maliki is too close to their regional arch-rival Iran, according to analysts.

In the election Allawi's Iraqiya bloc earned 91 seats, two seats ahead of Maliki's State of Law alliance, in the battle for control of the 325-member Council of Representatives.

But since then neither has been able to demonstrate enough support to assume the premiership.

In July Saudi Arabia urged the two sides to find a solution to fend off dangerous instability.

But last week it also strongly denied Iraqi media reports that it had given the nod to Maliki returning as prime minister, after the country's main Shiite parliamentary bloc crucially endorsed Maliki for premier.

"There is no truth to what has been reported," an unnamed Saudi government official told SPA.

"Choosing a prime minister is an issue for the Iraqi people," the official said.

The Riyadh meeting came four days after Maliki met visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns to discuss the stalemate.

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Iraq PM calls for opponents to return from exile
Baghdad (AFP) Oct 9, 2010
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for national reconciliation on Saturday, opening the door for former opponents to return home as he struggles to form a new government seven months after elections. "We must ... turn a new page with all those who have gone too far and made mistakes," he told a conference of tribal chiefs in Baghdad in a speech broadcast on state television. "I d ... read more

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