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Saudi Arabia Concerned About 'Spill-Over' Violence from Iraq

Monday, 18 September 2006 12:00 AM

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia voiced concern on Monday that sectarian tensions in Iraq could spill over into its neighbours, which it said should back Baghdad's efforts to stabilise the country.

"What we fear today is that the wise could fall in the traps of the ignorant, in which case Iraq, its unity and people would be victims . . .," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef told counterparts from nine countries in a meeting to discuss efforts to help Iraq quash an insurgency and quell ethnic violence.

"The dangers of such a situation, God forbid, are not a jeopardy to Iraq alone, but they will have an impact on the security of the international community and (Iraq's) neighbours," he said.

Prince Nayef said Iraqis should ignore "calls that divide Iraq along sectarian or ethnic lines" in an apparent reference to violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim groups and tensions between Arab and Kurdish Iraqis.

"This requires that we all do our utmost to bring Iraq and the Iraqis out of this dark tunnel."

Saudi Arabia has a Shi'ite minority with cultural and historical links to their co-religionists in both Iran and Iraq.

Interior ministers from Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq and its neighbours - Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Turkey - are meeting in the Saudi port city of Jeddah to discuss ways of bolstering Iraqi efforts to improve security.

An Iraqi official said Baghdad wants its neighbours to seal their borders to Islamist militants who cross into Iraq to fight U.S.-led troops.

"We need to improve the security situation in Iraq with more border control," Alaa al-Ta'i, an Iraqi interior ministry spokesman told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Iraqi officials often complain that their neighbours, mainly Iran and Syria, are not doing enough to block the flow of Islamist militants into Iraq.

"We want . . . logistical support including more equipment and training of Iraqi police in (other) countries, like Saudi Arabia, as Jordan have done," he added.

Iraq's government has been battling an insurgency which seeks to drive out U.S.-led forces and topple the government that they see as a stooge of the United States.

Officials in Saudi Arabia, which has a 1,000 km (630 mile) desert border with Iraq, have already talked of their concern that Saudis who have gone to fight alongside Iraq's Sunni insurgents could return to fight in Saudi Arabia.

Estimates of the number of Saudi militants in Iraq range from several hundred to several thousand.

(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia voiced concern on Monday that sectarian tensions in Iraq could spill over into its neighbours, which it said should back Baghdad's efforts to stabilise the country. "What we fear today is that the wise could fall in the traps of the...
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2006-00-18
Monday, 18 September 2006 12:00 AM
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