Iraq will not Extradite Hijackers to Saudi Arabia
Iraq will not extradite two Saudis who hijacked a Boeing 777 to Baghdad, Interior Minister Mohammad Zammam Abdel Razzak said Tuesday, urging Riyadh to change its attitude if it wanted them back.
"Our people have never, throughout their long history, handed over an intruder and even less so if he is using his right to his land, Iraq being the land of all Arabs," the minister told the official INA news agency.
"If you change your attitude (towards Iraq, we will think about changing ours)," he added.
Saudi Arabia issued a determined call Monday to Baghdad to extradite two security officers who used a service revolver to hijack the Saudi Arabian Airlines jet carrying 104 people to Baghdad on Saturday.
"We demand the handing over of the two hijackers," who are being held by the Iraqi authorities," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said.
"We will not compromise over their extradition," he vowed during a press conference saying Riyadh would seek Interpol's assistance.
"We will not compromise," Razzak riposted.
"Has Iraq made you any offer whatsoever for you to say you will not compromise, particularly since we will not compromise on principles," the minister replied to Prince Nayef.
"You have an agreement with the Americans and the Jews, and Iraq is bombarded from your territory. If we have not compromised, will we today?"
Saudi Arabia sheltered the US-led coalition which evicted Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War and allows US warplanes to use its bases to carry out surveillance monitoring of international sanctions.
"He who comes to Baghdad from the Najd or from the Hijaz (Saudi Arabia) or from the Maghreb (North Africa) is at home. He who comes to Baghdad is safe because Baghdad is the land of all Arabs," the minister insisted.
Iraq expected "to be thanked for quickly ending the hijacking of the plane and ensuring the safety of passengers," Razzak went on.
"But we have no illusions, we know you and we understand your position," he said to Riyadh.
Prince Nayef did praise the "positive" behavior of the Iraqi authorities, but he added that had "nothing to do" with politics or a restoration of diplomatic relations.
Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Iraq during the Gulf War over Kuwait and the two sides maintain a war of words with the Baghdad media hurling insults on a regular basis.
Prince Nayef said both hijackers were sub-lieutenants. He named them as Faisal Naji al-Balawi, 26, who worked at Jeddah airport security services, and Ayesh Ali al-Fridi, a border guard.
The pair surrendered without a fight after forcing the plane bound for London from Jeddah to land late Saturday at Saddam International Airport.
The hijackers called for an inquiry into human rights abuses in Riyadh, slammed the regime as being under US hegemony, and, according to some reports, requested political asylum.
They also denounced "the presence of the US and British armies" in Saudi Arabia, echoing a common theme of anti-Riyadh hostility in Baghdad.
The state carrier said 94 of the original 104 passengers and crew finally reached London Heathrow on Monday morning after arriving overnight in Riyadh from Baghdad -- RIYADH (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)