News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIraq VP in post-election talks with Saudi king

Iraq VP in post-election talks with Saudi king

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ImageAFP: Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab official, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, on Wednesday became the latest politician to hold talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia after an indecisive March election. ImageRIYADH (AFP) — Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab official, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, on Wednesday became the latest politician to hold talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia after an indecisive March election.

The two men discussed "issues of common interest," said a terse report on the official Saudi Press Agency.

Hashemi's visit to Riyadh follows similar trips by leading Iraqi politicians from all communities — Kurdish and Shiite as well as Sunni Arab.

In the past three days, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is also a Kurd, have both travelled to Saudi Arabia.

So too have Ammar al-Hakim, one of the key leaders in the main Shiite religious bloc, and Iyad Allawi, a Shiite who heads the secular alliance that emerged as the largest single faction in the new parliament.

The March 7 election left Allawi's Iraqiya bloc ahead of his rival Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance.

But neither has been able to piece together a governing coalition and the visitors to Riyadh are believed to be seeking Saudi support in forming a stable government.

While Saudi Arabia has professed it does not interfere in Iraqi politics, critics allege that it is more sympathetic to Allawi, who met Abdullah on the eve of the election, than Maliki, from whom Riyadh has maintained a chilly distance.

"We do not interfere in (Iraq's) internal affairs. We support all Iraqis, and Iraq's unity, independence and sovereignty over its territory, and we maintain the same distance from all politicians," Prince Saud told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Saturday.

Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia is most concerned about Shiite arch-rival Iran's potential influence over any Baghdad administration.

Observers have speculated that Riyadh could upgrade relations if Allawi, whose Iraqiya has the support of both Sunni Iraqis and some secular Shiites, is successful in forming a parliamentary majority.

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