US vice president in Saudi Arabia to talk Iraq, Iran

March 21st, 2008 - 8:33 pm ICT by admin  

Riyadh, March 21 (DPA) US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived Friday in Saudi Arabia where he was expected to urge its leaders to activate their ties with Iraq, according to media reports. Cheney, on a 10-day regional tour, will ask Saudi Arabia to step up formal ties with the Iraqis by sending an ambassador to Baghdad and encouraging visits by ministers and officials.

He is also expected to renew Washington’s warning against Iran’s growing influence in the region.

The US wants to see its Arab allies, such as Riyadh and Cairo, upgrade ties with Baghdad as a way of containing Iran’s fledgling influence in Iraq, US and Arab officials say.

Saudi diplomats visited Baghdad at the end of last year to explore how an embassy could be opened there.

There are disagreements between Washington and Riyadh over the Iraqi government led by Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Saudis think al-Maliki is not doing enough to promote reconciliation between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni Arabs and is giving Iran a chance to deepen its foothold in Iraq.

Cheney was also expected to raise fresh alarm over Iran’s nuclear programme, which neighbouring Saudi Arabia is concerned about but prefers a dialogue with Tehran to a confrontational approach.

US President George Bush failed during a regional visit in January to enlist Arab support for his anti-Iranian campaign.

Gulf Arab and Iranian leaders have been exchanging visits and fostering ties.

Spiralling oil prices will be on the agenda with both the US and Saudi Arabia agreeing on restoring the balance in oil markets.

The US has called for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase the output to curb spiralling prices. But, OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer, has refused calls for output increases.

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