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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Iraq minister hits out at Saudis
Bayan Jabr
Jabr: Attacked the 'dictatorship' of the Saudi royal family
Iraq's interior minister has hit out at a suggestion by a Saudi minister that US policy in Iraq has handed the country over to Iranian influence.

Bayan Jabr said Iraqis were proud of their country, and would not accept lessons on human rights and democracy from Saudi Arabia.

And he disparaged Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who made the comments, as a "Bedouin on a camel".

Mr Jabr said Iraq was an independent nation that would not be dictated to.

We are Iraqis and we are responsible for solving our problems, we will not allow anyone to interfere
Bayan Jabr

But his remarks were criticised by Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who apologised for Mr Jabr's "regrettable and inappropriate" comments.

Mr Jabr's comments were a retort to remarks made by Prince Faisal during a trip to Washington in September.

Prince Faisal had expressed concern that Shia Iran was using conflict and chaos inside Iraq to extend its influence across the border. He said Iraq appeared to be heading towards disintegration.

The row broke out as a meeting of Arab ministers on Iraq began in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

'God-king'

"We are Iraqis and we are responsible for solving our problems, we will not allow anyone to interfere," said Mr Jabr, who sits in Iraq's parliament for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shia party.

Prince Saud al-Faisal
Prince Saud al-Faisal has said Iranian groups are infiltrating Iraq
He added: "This Iraq is the cradle of civilisation that taught humanity reading and writing, and some Bedouin riding a camel wants to teach us."

Mr Jabr rounded on the Saudi regime, which he accused of treating millions of women and Shia Muslims as second-class citizens.

"They have one god, he is the king, he is the god, and he rules as he likes. A whole country is named after a family."

Mr Zebari attempted to distance the Iraqi government from Mr Jabr's comments, insisting that he was not speaking in an official capacity and had no jurisdiction over foreign issues.

Neighbour's fears

The BBC's Paul Harper says that behind the invective lie real fears among Iraq's Arab neighbours that the accession of a Shia dominated government in Baghdad will upset the regional balance of power between Sunnis and Shia.

Shias are a majority in Iraq, but there are sizable Shia minorities in many other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia

The Iraqi government hopes the current meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Saudi city of Jeddah will generate support for its strategy of trying to draw the Iraqi Sunnis into the political process.

But this latest row suggests that the gap between the Baghdad administration and its neighbours is if anything widening.


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