Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Maliki in Syria for security discussions

(Gulf News) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki started on Monday an important visit to Damascus which aims to discuss several important issues between the two countries, Iraqi officials said. The move came days after the formation of a new political coalition in Iraq which included senior Shiite and Kurdish parties. This alliance declared support for Al Maliki as a strong government leader.
Mahmoud Othman, a leading figure in the Kurdish Alliance, who strongly stands by Al Maliki, told Gulf News: "Syria is a significant country that can play a role to sustain Iraq's security and stability. This can be achieved in two ways : The first is by controlling joint borders and halting infiltration networks and operations that are used by terrorist elements to sneak into Iraq. Secondly, many opposition figures of the new political process in Iraq are based in Damascus. Consequently Syrians support the Iraqi national reconciliation process."
The Iraqi-Syrian relations are facing sensitive issues like Iraqi security, frozen funds and immigrants. Dhahir Abdullah, professor of international relations at Al Nahrain University in Baghdad, told Gulf News: "The Syrian move of hosting the security committee meeting has relieved Iraqi officials and information indicated that the Syrian army has taken concrete measures to control borders with Iraq."
He said, "Some files like the frozen money and funds belong to former regime officials in Syrian banks, besides the presence of some Baathist leaders accused of financing terrorism in Syrian capital, remain provocative factors that could damage the Syrian-Iraqi relationship. I think Al Maliki will vigorously discuss these files with Syrian officials."
It is noteworthy that US's strongly-worded statements against Syria's involvement in supporting terrorism in Iraq have decreased significantly compared with last year. Recently the military officials shifted their security accusations against Iran. Babakir Zebari, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, told Gulf News: "There is a retreat of terrorists infiltration across Syrian borders by more than 60 per cent and this is an encouraging issue".
In addition, officials close to the Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Al Shahrastani revealed that one of the important economic issues to be discussed during Al Maliki's special visit to Syria is rehabilitating and opening the oil pipeline across Iraqi-Syrian territories to transport oil to the Syrian port on the Mediterranean. It is apparent that the Syrians are very interested in this file.
Salim Al Hashimi, an Iraqi economic researcher, told Gulf News: "If the security and reconciliation files are very important for Al Maliki, Syrian government's major preoccupations are trade and oil transportation."

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