Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani's visit to Saudi Arabia could signal a new US-Iranian-Saudi axis that would leave Baghdad out in the cold, an official Iraqi newspaper warned Sunday. Meanwhile, Russia has promised to work hard for lifting the decade-long embargo on Baghdad.
"Several questions can be raised on the subject of this visit and the security accord Iran and Saudi Arabia intend to sign," said Babel, run by the eldest son of the Iraqi president, Uday Saddam Hussein.
"Firstly, could Saudi Arabia sign such an accord without the encouragement and approval of the United States?" Babel asked.
"The obvious answer is 'No', and that leads us to ask: what terrorism do Saudi Arabia and Iran want to fight under the aegis of the United States? And what is the relation between the fight against terrorism and the visit by the Iranian minister to Saudi military bases?"
Babel highlighted the increased contacts and coordination the United States and Iran have enjoyed during the past year.
"There have been the theatrical excuses of Madeleine Albright, the lifting of the embargo on pistachios and caviar, the fact that the United States considered the Mujahadeen as a terrorist organization, and Iran's intensification of its fight against the so-called smuggling of contraband Iraqi oil" in the Gulf, Babel said.
"All this, as well as secret and public visits, indicate the start of a new era of cooperation and coordination between the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia."
Shamkhani on Sunday will become the first Iranian defense minister to pay an official visit to Saudi Arabia in 21 years amid improving ties and Iran's efforts to draw closer to the Gulf states.
The official Saudi news agency SPA said Tuesday that Riyadh had agreed to open negotiations with Tehran on a bilateral security cooperation agreement on combating drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime.
PUTIN PROMISES SADDAM TO WORK TOWARD LIFTING EMBARGO ON BAGHDAD
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has promised Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to work to lift the embargo imposed on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, an official Iraqi paper said Sunday.
"Russia will maintain its position of principle and work for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq," Putin wrote in a message to Saddam, carried by Ath-Thawra, the mouthpiece of the ruling Baath party.
"We will also work for the consolidation of friendly relations between Iraq and Russia," Putin said, in response to Saddam's message of congratulations on his presidential election win on March 28.
Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, has repeatedly called for lifting of sanctions against Iraq and condemned US and British bombing of Iraqi territory during patrols of "no-fly" zones in the north and south of the country.
Iraqi Defense Minister General Sultan Hashem Ahmad met secretly between April 14-16 with his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeyev for talks on the current international situation, "notably in the Persian Gulf." – BAGHDAD (AFP)
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