Iraq Getting More Respect in Global Eyes

Iraq Getting More Respect in Global Eyes
September 27th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq Getting More Respect in Global Eyes

Iraq Getting More Respect in Global Eyes
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 26 September 2006

UNITED NATIONS_Iraq is getting more respect now that it has an elected
government, fully participating in dozens of meetings at the U.N. General
Assembly. "Now it's business," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

As the annual meeting of the world's leaders heads to its finale on
Wednesday, the Iraqi minister said that since he started coming here in 2003
he's never been busier.

"This is a good sign because Iraq really _ despite the bad news, the
negative news coming out of Baghdad _ is moving steadily toward a functional
state," he said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

Zebari recalled that as foreign minister first in the U.S.-appointed Iraqi
Governing Council and then in the transitional government, there would be
"nice words, nice exchanges" on the fringes of the General Assembly and
other international meeting. But since Iraq's elections and the selection in
April of a constitutional government, "the days of diplomatic niceties" are

With a smile of satisfaction, Zebari said, "it's more business we are in
fact discussing," and he reeled off examples.

On the sidelines of the General Assembly, he said, "we had a good meeting of
Iraq's neighboring countries ... and we agreed on some important steps."

First, Zebari said, Iran demanded that future meetings of Iraq's neighboring
countries had to be "with the full consent, approval and need of the Iraqi

"Second, we demanded that the next meeting of Iraq's neighboring countries
take place in Baghdad, as a sign to stand with the Iraqi people, to show
solidarity and support, as the Arab foreign ministers did when they went to
Beirut during the (Israel-Hezbollah) war. ... And they approved it, which
was a good thing," he said.

At a meeting with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, attended by Iraqi
President Jalil Talabani, Zebari said "we had a very frank, open discussion
about how to go forward."

The Iraqis told Moallem "if you want to improve relations and show goodwill,
... one of the simplest steps is for you to come and visit Baghdad ...
because in the past three years, almost each and every Iraqi official has
visited you, and no Syrian officials have come to Baghdad," the foreign
minister said. "It will help smooth, let's say, relations, and we will
welcome you. You'll be respected in Iraq by all Iraqis."

What was the Syrian minister's response? "He said he accepted the idea, I
think, and we will wait to see when that takes place," Zebari said.

At every meeting, Zebari said, he delivered the same appeal _ to help
stabilize the country and end the surge in sectarian violence.

Iraq is "the key to stability in the region," he said. "That's why we have
been calling on all the parties, all the states, that it is in your interest
to help us to stabilize the situation. Failure in Iraq will affect you
directly." He said a security vacuum in Iraq would not be to anyone's

Zebari accused some of Iraq's neighbors _ though he did not name them _ of
fomenting violence and terrorist acts, and of putting short-term interests
and a desire to settle "certain scores" ahead of long-term peace and
stability in the region.

Interior ministers of Iraq and its neighboring countries recently met in
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where they signed a security protocol to coordinate
and exchange information and set up hot lines, he said.

Despite this agreement, Zebari said, "I would say unfortunately, some of our
neighbors have not been helpful."

On the eve of the General Assembly, 31 countries attended a meeting of the
Compact for Iraq, a five-year plan to ensure Iraq's government has funds to
survive and enact key political and economic reforms.

Zebari called it "an important international event" but said that unless
Iraq improves security and accelerates political reconciliation, "it would
be extremely difficult to attract foreign investments or foreign companies."

"That is the challenge _ and the government is committed to do that," he

Nonetheless, Zebari said, despite the instability and violence, the new
Iraqi government has taken other actions that demonstrate its authority.

"We wanted to help the Jordanian government and economy, so we signed an oil
agreement to provide them with crude oil at preferential prices to support
the Jordanian need for fuel," he said. "This really was an eye-opener to
many countries in the region that despite everything we are going through,
Iraq is still capable, able to help."

When the Israel-Hezbollah war began in Lebanon in July, Zebari said Iraq
donated $35 million in emergency aid to the Lebanese government, an act
which "embarrassed many other Arab countries to raise their bid."

Iraq has also reached agreements with Turkey to boost trade and open new
border crossings, he said, and will sign a trade agreement with the European

"Even with the Iranians, we've signed an oil agreement for us to give them
crude for one of their refineries which is close to Basra, while they will
compensate us in the Gulf, to increase our export," Zebari said.

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