BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Jordanian diplomat Ahmed al-Lozi has presented his credentials to the Iraqi government, becoming the first fully accredited Arab ambassador in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein, an official said Friday.
President Jalal Talabani received al-Lozi’s accreditation papers on Thursday, said a statement issued by the president’s office.
Al-Lozi came to Baghdad with Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit on Tuesday and stayed behind to take up his duties, Talabani’s aide, Hiwa Othman, told The Associated Press.
Asked if al-Lozi is the first fully accredited Arab ambassador here, Othman said: “He is indeed.”
Arab countries have dragged their feet on upgrading relations with Iraq since the March 2003 ouster of Saddam in the U.S.-led invasion, which most Arab governments opposed.
Under U.S. pressure the Arabs agreed last year to upgrade their envoys to ambassadorial rank. But the July 2005 kidnap-slaying of Egyptian envoy in Ihab al-Sherif set back the process.
Also in July 2005, two Algerian diplomats and an Egyptian colleague were separately kidnapped and killed. In October, two Moroccan Embassy workers were abducted and later killed.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for all the kidnappings and murders, and warned Arab and Muslim countries against establishing relations with the U.S.-backed Shiite dominated government.
A diplomat from the United Arab Emirates was kidnapped in May this year and released after two weeks.
Al-Lozi’s arrival with the Jordanian prime minister was not publicized and his credential presentation ceremony was held in private.
The statement by Talabani’s office said the president «confirmed the need to solidify relations with Jordan in all fields.»
Talabani also “expressed his readiness to provide support» to al-Lozi, and assured him that he can rely on the president «personally in facilitating his job.” The statement noted that both countries depend on each other for their border security. Iraq shares a small land border on its west with Jordan.
Othman said the duration of al-Lozi’s term will depend on “as long as his government wants him to” be in Iraq. The accreditation comes after a period of perceived strain in relations between the two countries.
An Aug. 7, 2003 blast at the Jordanian Embassy was the first major car bombing in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam. At least 11 people were killed. Last year, thousands of Shiites attacked the embassy, following media reports that a suicide bomber who killed 125 people in an attack in Hillah, south of the capital, was a Jordanian.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II also angered Shiite politicians and clerics in Iraq in 2004 when he said that Iran was seeking to create “a Shiite crescent” in the Middle East that would disrupt the balance of power in the region. The king, a Sunni like most Arabs, later said he was not opposed to Shiites.