Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iraq urges neighbours to cut support for terror

Iraq urges neighbours to cut support for terror

Iraq issued an impassioned plea on Saturday for 16 regional and world powers, including neighbours Iran and Syria, to forge a common front against terrorism and to bring an end to support for violent extremists.

The urgency of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's appeal was underlined when three mortar shells hit a nearby building in a suspected insurgent attack that rocked the foreign ministry while envoys ate lunch inside.

Meanwhile, three kilometres (two miles) away in Shiite east Baghdad, a car bomb exploded outside a Palestine Street restaurant, killing at least four civilians and wounding 10, a security official said.

As explosions and sporadic gunfire echoed around Baghdad, Maliki launched a day of talks with delegates from Middle Eastern states and from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The embattled premier demanded that Iraq not become a battlefield for a proxy war between regional powers -- an implicit reference to the rivalry between Shiite Iran and Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbours.

"We wish to have our neighbours' support for confronting terrorism," said Maliki in his opening address to the assembled diplomats, warning that the violence gripping Iraq could destablise other countries.

"The terrorism that today is trying to kill Iraqis in Baghdad, Hilla, Mosul and Anbar is the same as the terror that intimidated the population of Saudi Arabia, targeted the people of Egypt, attacked the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and hit underground trains in Madrid and London.

"This is an international epidemic, the price of which is being paid by the people of Iraq, and our country is on the front line of confrontation," he said.

"Confronting terrorism means halting any form of financial support and media or religious incitement, as well as logistical support and the provision of arms and men that will become explosive tools killing our children, women and elders, and bombing our mosques and churches."

Maliki demanded "that regional and international states refrain from interfering or influencing the Iraqi situation by supporting certain sects, nationalities or parties."

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