Tags: saudis iraq talks riyadh

Saudis Say Iraqis Support Talks in Riyadh

Monday, 01 Nov 2010 05:49 AM


RIYADH — Iraqi political leaders have signalled support for a Saudi proposal to host talks aimed at resolving the political deadlock in Baghdad, the kingdom's foreign minister said on Sunday.

Despite no high-level official Iraqi reaction yet to King Abdullah's call for talks in Riyadh, "what we have heard is general support for the initiative," Prince Saud al-Faisal said.

"They appreciate the initiative," he said, though he acknowledged that Iraq's political parties were also pursuing their own initiatives to resolve the nearly eight-month-old deadlock.

King Abdullah on Saturday invited Iraq's political leaders to meet in Riyadh after the mid-November Eid al-Adha holiday to bridge their differences and agree on the formation of a government.

Iraq has been without a new government since a March 7 election in which the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc led by former premier Iyad Allawi won 91 seats, followed by incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law with 89.

Despite intense back-room negotiations, neither side has been able to muster the 163 seats required for a majority in Iraq's 325-member parliament.

Speaking to reporters, Prince Saud said Riyadh and Arab League sponsors of talks in Riyadh would only serve as facilitators. "Saudi Arabia is not going to be an observer or take any part," he said.

He added there were no preconditions and no time-limit was being set for the discussions, and that Saudi Arabia "will support any solution reached by the parties."

Asked whether Iran, Riyadh's rival for influence in Iraq, would be welcome as an observer or participant, Saud replied: "There is no intention for any international presence in these meetings, (they) are only for the Iraqis."

Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia has backed Allawi against fellow Shiite Maliki, whom they had long seen as too close to majority-Shiite Iran.

But Riyadh and other regional governments have grown concerned at the impasse and the effect it could have on Iraq's overall stability in the wake of the scheduled total withdrawal of US combat troops at the end of next year.

In Baghdad, an MP close to Maliki, who is seeking to keep his job, scorned the invitation on Saturday.

"This Saudi initiative is not positive, and that country does not have a role to play because it has not been neutral in recent years; it has always had a negative attitude" toward Maliki, Sami al-Askari said.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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