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Iraq PM in Saudi Arabia to discuss peace plan

July 02, 2006

JEDDAH, July 1: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived on Saturday in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah, his first stop on a Gulf tour to rally regional support for his peace plan.

Top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, greeted him at the airport, the official SPA news agency reported.

Mr Maliki’s tour — his first overseas trip since taking over as premier in May — would also take him to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to discuss with Arab leaders his national reconciliation plan, Iraqi Minister of State for National Dialogue Akram al-Hakim said.

Mr Maliki unveiled the plan last Sunday in a bid to stem the violence that has ravaged Iraq. But the plan has been rejected by a number of Sunni Arab leaders and rebel groups.

The Shia prime minister apparently wants to enlist the help of Gulf leaders, many of whom retain influence with Iraq’s disenchanted Sunni former elite.

Mr Maliki has said the amnesty offered in the plan would only cover detainees held in US and Iraqi prisons who had committed no violent crimes, and stressed there would be no pardon for those who killed foreign troops, journalists or innocent Iraqis.

More than 2,500 detainees have been freed this month from US and Iraqi prisons as part of the plan.

US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad visited Jeddah on Tuesday and met King Abdullah and other Saudi leaders.—AFP