Saudi Arabia to Upgrade Arar Border Crossing with Iraq
Saudi Arabia will spend nine million dollars to upgrade its border-crossing with Iraq in anticipation of a decision by the United Nations to allow it to reopen to ease shipments of humanitarian goods, a newspaper report said Sunday.
Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf and several local companies finalized the plans for the Arar border crossing, and the project is scheduled to be completed within two years, Al-Riyadh newspaper was quoted by AFP as reporting.
The plan includes the construction of 30 housing units, expansion of the existing administrative buildings and installation of a water sewage system.
The Arar border post has been shut since Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but is opened once a year to allow Muslims to travel to Mecca for the annual hajj.
Saudi Arabia has been awaiting a green light by the United Nations to reopen the border post as a way of easing the entry of humanitarian goods into sanctions-hit Iraq.
In Januray, The UN sanctions committee on Iraq examined the Saudi request to open the Arar border crossing with Iraq to "facilitate transportation of Saudi goods as part of the UN oil-for-food program."
In a letter addressed to the committee chairman, Saudi envoy to UN, Fawzi Shobokshi, Riyadh had said, "This border crossing is equipped and ready for this activity."
The letter, which the committee examined for the first time since it was sent in October last year, also said the Saudi government would highly appreciate it if secretary-general Kofi Annan would "recommend in his report the opening of this border crossing under UN supervision."
A week earlier, a Saudi transport firm had signed a contract with Iraq for direct exports through the border crossing to Baghdad.
But the borderline has not been quiet since the 1991 Gulf War, when Saudi Arabia offered its territories for a US-led coalition that forced Ira out of Kuwait.
Iraq said late August that an armed Saudi national was killed in a clash between Iraqi border guards and an armed Saudi group that had “infiltrated Iraqi territory two days earlier.”
The incident was reported in a message addressed to Arab League chief Amr Moussa, with Baghdad accusing “"Saudi authorities of being entirely responsible for this aggression," but vowed it would continue to respect the countries' shared border.
In June, Saudi Arabia accused Iraq of sending troops across its border on May 23 and opening fire on Saudi border guards, who returned fire, injuring an Iraqi soldier who later died of his wounds.
Iraq has three open land crossings to the outside world through Jordan, Turkey and Syria as well as passenger ferry links with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar through Gulf waters – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)