August 20, 2008 / 7:34 AM / 11 years ago

Lebanese prime minister visits Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday became the second Arab leader to visit Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, arriving for talks nine days after a flying visit by Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora waves upon arrival at Parliament in downtown Beirut, August 8, 2008. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi

Iraq’s Iraqiya state television showed Siniora walking through a corridor with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before the two sat down to talks.

Washington has been pressing Arab states to embrace the government in Baghdad, which has complained of being spurned by the rest of the Arab world.

“Iraq is an Arab country and it is very necessary to open up to it at this moment,” Siniora told Lebanon’s al-Mustaqbal newspaper earlier this week when his visit was announced.

No Arab country has had an ambassador permanently stationed in Baghdad since Egypt’s envoy was kidnapped and killed in 2005, although several have named ambassadors this year who have yet to arrive.

By contrast, non-Arab Iran has long had a full-functioning embassy and its president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad made a high profile visit in March.

Lebanon shares Iraq’s experience of seeking to end sectarian conflict by forming a government that balances the interests of competing communities.

Siniora, a politician from Lebanon’s Sunni community who has Saudi support, heads a new Lebanese national unity government which includes the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

The date of Siniora’s visit was announced days in advance, a contrast with that of the Jordanian king, which for security reasons was not announced until he had already left Iraq.

Last month senior Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri met Maliki in Baghdad.

Editing by Angus MacSwan

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