- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said yesterday that the kingdom soon will open an embassy in Baghdad for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a step Washington has pressed the Saudis to take.

The announcement by Prince Saud al-Faisal came after a Riyadh delegation returned from Iraq, where Prince Saud said it had investigated the possibility of the embassy’s opening.

“After we received the delegation’s report, it is expected that an embassy will open soon,” he told reporters in the Red Sea port city of Jidda.

The United States has pushed the kingdom to open an embassy in Baghdad as a sign of support for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which Sunni Saudi Arabia has kept at arm’s length and often criticizes as biased against Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority.

An umbrella insurgent group of Iraqi Sunni Muslims — Jihad and Reform Front — has warned Riyadh against opening the embassy, saying in a recent Web posting that the move would only comfort the Shi’ite-dominated government.

Aside from political considerations, Arab countries have backed off attempts to open embassies in Baghdad since Egypt’s top diplomat in the Iraqi capital was kidnapped and killed by insurgents in 2005, soon after Cairo announced it was looking at reopening its mission there.

Two Algerian diplomats and five Russian Embassy officials were killed in the months that followed.

Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority has close ties — including tribal links — to Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom has been a powerful voice pressing for the al-Maliki government to take steps to reconcile with the Sunnis.

In violence yesterday, gunmen ambushed a police checkpoint in northern Iraq before dawn, killing six officers in a sophisticated attack on fledgling Iraqi security installations, police said.

The attack occurred in the Gayara area south of Mosul, a mostly Sunni Muslim city that includes many ethnic Kurds, located about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Other scattered violence left at least five Iraqis dead, police said, including a civilian killed by a roadside bomb on Palestine Street, a popular shopping district in the Iraqi capital. The bomb targeted a passing convoy of SUVs, and left five others wounded.

In eastern Baghdad, robbers dressed as police commandos hijacked an armored truck, bound and gagged its guards, and made off with about $550,000 in Iraqi currency, police said.

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