Iraq urges Muslim states to send envoys
BAGHDAD: Iraq urged fellow Muslim states on Friday to send ambassadors to Baghdad in defiance of attacks by Al Qaeda insurgents, who killed Egypt’s kidnapped envoy and have threatened other diplomats. “The criminals wanted by this act to terrorise Arab and Islamic countries and deter them from upgrading their diplomatic missions in Iraq,” Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said. “Arab and Islamic countries are asked to prove their seriousness in combating terrorism and send their ambassadors to Baghdad so they send the right message to the terrorists. ”Iraq’s president promised top security for diplomats and Interior Minister Bayan Jabor, who has chided envoys for travelling without protection, said Iraqi armed escorts were always available.
Police were hunting the killers of Egyptian envoy Ihab el-Sherif, a day after Cairo confirmed his death at the hands of Al Qaeda kidnappers. He had been snatched off a Baghdad street on Saturday.“Our investigations are continuing,” a senior Interior Ministry official said. The Islamist militants posted a video showing Sherif speaking but not his killing. The Iraqi government has described the abduction and killing of Sherif, as well as at least two other attacks on senior diplomats in the capital this week, as part of attempts by insurgents to isolate the new, US-backed government.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani dismissed suggestions that the attacks on the diplomats in Baghdad would further discourage the despatch of emissaries from Arab capitals:
“It will have no effect,” he said late on Thursday during a visit to the Shia religious establishment in Najaf. “Two countries, Syria and Jordan, have asked to reopen their embassies in Iraq. For our part, we will take strict security precautions to protect embassies and diplomatic residences.” Though publicly critical of Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgency, most Arab leaders are Sunnis and view with some mistrust the US-sponsored new government in Baghdad.
A US military official linked the campaign against embassy staff to a crackdown by security forces on car bombings that might have caused insurgents to adopt new tactics for a time. “If we come down hard on one kind of attack they shift to something else,” he said. “A number of diplomats have been attacked. Our impression is that will continue and we’ve got to turn our attention to improving security”.
An Egyptian diplomatic source said Egypt had confirmation of the killing “through multiple contacts” but had not received decisive evidence and did not know where Sherif’s body might be. Egypt is one of the friendliest states in the region towards the US and was the first to make peace with Israel, where Sherif had previously been Cairo’s top envoy. reuters