BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – Iraq said on Tuesday it will boycott an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting due to be held in Cairo on Wednesday to protest Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s comments on the loyalty of Iraqi Shi’ites to Iran.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shi’ite, said his government was surprised by the strength of Mubarak’s remarks and decided not to attend the talks, which will discuss the worsening violence in Iraq.
“Iraq will not take part and we hope this will remind those concerned of the need to stand beside the Iraqi people and to defend against any problem Iraq faces,” Jaafari told a news conference.
In comments broadcast on Saturday, Mubarak said Shi’ites in Arab states were more loyal to Iran than their own countries and said civil war had started in Iraq.
His comments came amid worsening sectarian bloodshed as Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders struggle to form a unity government four months after parliamentary elections.
Jaafari described Mubarak’s remarks on Sunday as a “stab in their (Iraqi Shi’ites’) patriotism and civilisation”.
Iraq had been due to join foreign ministers from Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates for Wednesday’s meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.