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Iraqi PM to Hold Talks With Saudi, Iran06/25 07:55

   

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's caretaker prime minister is set to fly to Saudi 
Arabia, followed by Iran, carrying a new initiative aimed at renewing talks 
between the two regional arch foes, an official said Saturday.

   The official said Mustafa al-Kadhimi was scheduled to travel to Riyadh later 
in the day for meetings with Saudi officials. He will then travel to Tehran on 
Sunday.

   Al-Kadhimi's visit seeks to open new avenues that would reactivate 
Baghdad-mediated dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to the 
official, who is privy to the Iran-Saudi dialogue track. The official spoke on 
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge the information 
to the press.

   The talks aimed at defusing yearslong tensions between the regional foes 
began quietly in Iraq's capital in 2021 as Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its 
disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has 
spawned one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters and brought bombs from 
rebel drones and missiles raining down on Saudi airports and oil facilities.

   A fifth and last round of talks was held in Baghdad in April before they 
were suspended again amid soaring Middle East tensions.

   Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse 
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed 
prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution 
stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity 
between the nations.

   Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia and is often caught in the middle of 
the two nations' proxy wars.

   Al-Kadhimi has stressed he wants balanced relations with the two neighbors. 
Improving relations with Saudi Arabia was a key policy of his administration 
when he took office in May 2020.

 
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