Saudi foreign minister makes rare visit to Baghdad

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 25, 2017 5:51 AM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad on Saturday, meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the premier's media office said.

It was the first visit of a senior Saudi minister since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, a spokesman for Iraq's foreign ministry told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad a year ago following a 25-year shutdown.

But Iraq later asked for the ambassador to be replaced after he made comments about Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs and the alleged persecution of Sunni Muslims, angering local Shi'ite politicians and militia leaders.

Saudi Arabia has long accused Iraq of being too close to Shi'ite Iran, its main regional rival, and of encouraging sectarian discrimination against Sunnis, a charge Baghdad denies.

Enmity between Sunni and Shi'ite regional powers has deepened in recent years as sectarian conflicts rage in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)