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Rancor Emerges in the Arab League

Iraq's foreign minister argues with his opposite numbers over the level of their Baghdad ties.

March 27, 2006|From Times Wire Services

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Arab countries promised Sunday to consider reopening diplomatic missions in Iraq, after the nation's foreign minister accused them of not doing enough to support his country's efforts toward peace and stability.

Despite the pledge, bitterness remained between Iraq and other Arab states before an Arab League summit that begins Tuesday in the Sudanese capital.

A letter said to be from Saddam Hussein added to the rancor, warning that an "American-Israeli conspiracy" is trying to split Iraq apart.

The authenticity of the letter, which did not bear any handwritten signature, could not be verified. It was posted on a website that supports Hussein's former Baathist Party and has carried other messages in his name.

Arab nations also rejected a U.S. explanation for rescinding aid to a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group. The league renewed its pledge to send $50 million a month to the Palestinian government, but offered no new aid proposal.

The promise for more involvement in Iraq offered no time frame for Arab countries to open full embassies in Baghdad. The issue of debt cancellation also was not addressed.

Arab nations have staffed their diplomatic missions in Iraq with lower-level officials, a source of irritation for Iraqis, who note that numerous other countries have ambassadors in the country.

Fierce arguments broke out between Iraqi interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Arab counterparts over the Arab role in Iraq, said several diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings were closed.

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