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Baghdad Disregards Plots to Assassinate Saudi Ambassador | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman walks past the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Sadr City, June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili

Riyadh, Baghdad-Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Iraq Thamer al-Sabhan said the Kingdom would always support Iraq’s Arabism, in response to Iraqi government’s call to replace Sabhan as he accused Iranian-backed militias of trying to assassinate him.

During a phone interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, the Saudi ambassador said his country was keen on Iraq’s unity, adding that he was shocked by the Iraqi government’s reaction, despite Iran’s blatant interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Sabhan also noted that his latest statements on Iran have “disturbed” some Iraqi factions, but added that the Iraqi people have always been keen on maintaining friendly relations with Riyadh and Baghdad.

On Sunday, Iraq called on Saudi Arabia to replace its ambassador to Baghdad over comments he made about Iran’s involvement in Iraq.

Well-informed sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the Iraqi decision to replace Sabhan was taken unilaterally, as neither Iraqi ministers nor Parliament deputies had a say in this matter.

The Saudi ambassador stressed that the Kingdom would deploy further efforts to achieve the interests of the Iraqi people. He told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that, as ambassador, he should represent his country’s political stance.

Riyadh only reopened its embassy in Baghdad in December after it was closed since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Sabhan was the first Saudi ambassador appointed since the reopening, which was seen as heralding closer cooperation in the fight against ISIS militants who control swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and have claimed bombings in Saudi Arabia.

The Iraqi foreign affairs ministry asked its Saudi counterpart to replace Sabhan as he has breached “the limits of diplomatic representation.”

In a statement, the Iraqi ministry criticized the Saudi ambassador for claiming that Iranian-backed militias were planning to assassinate him.

In comments to Asharq al-Awsat, the Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Jamal, expressed his country’s keenness on establishing the “best relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the request to replace Sabhan should not negatively affect relations with Saudi Arabia.