United Arab Emirates first to restore ties
Friday, June 6, 2008 3:00 AM
By Robert H. Reid
BAGHDAD -- The United Arab Emirates announced yesterday that it will appoint an ambassador to Baghdad in the coming days, making it the first Arab country to restore full diplomatic ties to Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The announcement, made in Baghdad by the UAE's foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, follows strong U.S. pressure for Arab countries to play a bigger political role here to counter Iranian influence and promote reconciliation between Iraq's rival Sunni and Shiite communities.
Many of the Mideast's Sunni-led governments have been wary of establishing a full diplomatic presence in Baghdad because of security fears and mistrust of the Shiite-led government's ties to Iran, which has a fully accredited ambassador here.
"We will hold talks to name the ambassador in the coming few days," Al Nahyan said. "We also hope that as soon as possible -- and I am talking here about a few weeks -- we will see an active Emirates embassy in Baghdad."
U.S. and Iraqi officials praised the UAE's decision and hoped other Arab governments would follow suit.
"This reflects, I think, an appreciation on the part of the Arabs that things are different in Iraq, both in security terms and in political terms," the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said in Washington.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the move was an important signal that Iraq is "hopefully getting back on a path to normal and good relations with its neighbors in the region."