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Saudi rebuffs Iraqi accusation over insurgency

Saudi Arabia rejects Iraqi accusations of "negativity"

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Saudi Arabia rejected charges by the Iraqi government that the kingdom was allowing Saudis to join Iraq's Sunni insurgency, a Saudi newspaper reported Saturday.

In comments that underscored the chilly relations between the two neighbors, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz said Baghdad was not doing enough to control its own borders and that Iraqis were sneaking into Saudi Arabia, the Saudi daily al-Watan reported.

"The Iraqi government knows where the (foreign) fighters come from," said Prince Nayef, denying claims that Saudis are infiltrating into Iraq.

Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, editor-in-chief of al-Watan, told Al Arabiya that Prince Nayef was referring to Iran and Syria as the prime sources of foreign insurgency into Iraq and that Iraqi government refuses to address these countries because it does not care about the interests of Iraqis as a whole.

"The kingdom does what is in the best interest of Iraq and its people and the return of Iraq to its unity and sovereignty," Prince Nayef said. He urged Iraq to improve border security to prevent the infiltration of Iraqis into Saudi Arabia.

Main impediment

Saudi officials say the security situation in Iraq has been the main impediment to reciprocating Iraqi moves towards resuming full diplomatic ties, broken after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

But analysts say that Riyadh sees the current Iraqi leadership as being under the influence of Iran.

Khashoggi said the Saudi government has a particular stand on the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He said Saudi Arabia wants to deal with an Iraqi prime minister who cares about the interests of all Iraqis, not a particular group only.

"The kingdom wants only the good and stability for Iraq, in all aspects, but if there is someone in Iraq working against its interest and expecting the kingdom to support him, this will not happen," the newspaper quoted Prince Nayef as saying.

"The kingdom would not allow any harm against Iraq's government and people."

If there is someone in Iraq working against its interest and expecting the kingdom to support him, this will not happen

Saudi IM Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz

Negativity

On Thursday Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said Baghdad has no intention of making goodwill gestures towards Saudi Arabia because Riyadh adopts "negative positions" on repairing diplomatic ties.

Maliki and other government officials have in the past accused Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia of not doing enough to stop Saudis crossing the border and joining the Sunni insurgency that has killed thousands in Shiite-dominated Iraq in the past six years.

"There will be no other initiatives on our part as long as there is no sign from Saudi Arabia that it wants to have good ties," he said.

Iraq reopened its embassy in Riyadh in February 2007 and a few weeks later Saudi King Abdullah told an Arab summit in Riyadh that Iraq was under foreign occupation, upsetting some Iraqi officials.

Last month, Riyadh accepted the appointment of Iraq's first ambassador to the kingdom since 1991.

Iraq's relations with Syria, Iran and some smaller Gulf states have improved since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, but ties with Saudi Arabia have remained tepid.

Saudi Arabia, with its Sunni-majority population, is suspicious of Iraq's Shiite-led government and Maliki's Dawa party, which enjoys links to Iran.

Maliki has in the past year played down his Shiite Islamist roots, cracking down on Shiite fighters in Baghdad and south Iraq, forging ties with Sunni Arabs in parliament and abandoning an overtly sectarian stance in his provincial election campaign

There will be no other initiatives on our part as long as there is no sign from Saudi Arabia that it wants to have good ties

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki.