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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 22:48 GMT
Saudis plan Iraq security fence
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Saudi Arabia will press ahead with the construction of a security fence to seal off the border with Iraq, the interior minister has said.

Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz said it would prevent the entry of Islamic militants and illegal immigrants.

The 900-km (560 mile) fence is part of the larger electronic shield which the kingdom plans to build to secure its northern, western and southern borders.

The $12bn project will use devices such as remote sensors and thermal cameras.

A border fence separating us from Iraq has become essential to protect security...I expect work will begin on the border fence next year
Prince Nayef

The Saudis want to control their vast desert borders and seal off Iraq, ensuring that the chaos there does not spill over into the kingdom.

The Saudi interior minister said the war in Iraq was affecting all its neighbours and that a border fence had become essential for the security of the kingdom.

Describing Iraq as the main base for terrorism in the region, Prince Nayef said construction of the fence would start next year and take up to six years.

As the world's largest oil producer and the country targeted by al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia is acutely aware of the threat posed by the war in Iraq.

The Saudi authorities fear there could be dire consequences for the stability of the kingdom if Iraq disintegrates.

They see the security fence as a means of stopping al-Qaeda fighters as well as drug dealers, weapon smugglers and potentially large numbers of Iraqi refugees.

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