Iraqi minister slips out of Baghdad to rally support from Arab nations
By Andrew Gumbel
LONDON: Iraq’s Foreign Minister slipped quietly out of Baghdad over the weekend for a diplomatic trip to Syria and Egypt aimed at rallying Arab governments against “the American, British and Zionist aggression”.
That Naji Sabri managed to leave Baghdad under heavy bombardment and make his trip was a propaganda coup in itself, and he wasted no time in addressing television cameras, venting his fury at “the drunken junkie”, President George Bush, and his “follower dog”, Tony Blair.
Mr Sabri claimed that Iraqi fighters had shot down a US warplane about 12 miles west of Baghdad, and issued a warning to the Turkish government not to co-operate with the US-led war effort, saying it would face “multiple harm” as a consequence. His words appeared calculated to exploit existing rifts in the international community, and coincided with fractious negotiations at the United Nations, where the British and Americans are trying to lay the groundwork for a new raft of Security Council resolutions on post-war Iraq.
Mr Sabri got a sympathetic hearing in a one-hour meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Farouk al-Sharaa, in Damascus yesterday. He then flew to Cairo, where he is due to attend a meeting of Arab foreign ministers today. He said he did not expect financial aid from other Arab governments, but was hoping at least for a rhetorical show of support.
“Arab governments are duty-bound to denounce this imperialist and Zionist aggression and demand its immediate halt,” Mr Sabri said. “They have to condemn it because all the Arab people have condemned it.” —Independent