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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Q&A: Iraq conference
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (L) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki
Iran was initially reluctant to attend the meetings

What meetings on Iraq are to take place at Sharm el-Sheikh?

The International Compact for Iraq (ICI) is to be launched at a conference in the Egyptian resort on 3 May.

A ministerial meeting of states neighbouring Iraq will also be held there on 4 May.

The two meetings will be "parallel but independent", Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said at a news conference on 7 April.

What is the International Compact for Iraq?

The United Nations-sponsored International Compact for Iraq (ICI) is a five-year national plan to help Iraq consolidate peace, sound governance and economic reconstruction. It includes benchmarks and mutual commitments from both Iraq and the international community in pursuit of political, economic and social development goals over the next five years.

The preparatory process on the ICI began in July 2006 at the initiative of the Iraqi government to establish a partnership with the international community. This process has been co-chaired by Iraq and the UN through the UN special adviser on the ICI and other political issues, Ibrahim Gambari. It is supported by the World Bank.

It is expected that the ICI will be finalised and signed at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, Mr Zebari said.

Who will attend the conference?

Foreign ministers or their representatives from the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council, the UN, the G8, Egypt, Bahrain, the Arab League, the International Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and states neighbouring Iraq, including Iran and Syria.

What are the aims of the conference?

"The meeting is aimed at calling on the neighbouring states, the big powers and the industrial states to back Iraq's security and stability and assume their responsibilities in this respect, and also follow up on and review the resolutions and results of the Baghdad Conference, which was held on 10 March," Mr Zebari said.

"The meeting is also aimed at reducing regional tension by encouraging dialogue or contacts between the international parties and the neighbouring states concerned," he added.

"As a platform, there may be opportunities for breaking that deadlock, which would be helpful to my country, because we need a conducive, supportive regional environment for us to succeed."

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the conference constituted "a turning point" for the political process in Iraq. "In fact, we feel that this conference will represent the start for Iraq to interact with its Arab and regional environment. First of all, this is a recognition of the political process in Iraq. I think that this is the biggest achievement."

What does Iraq hope to get out of it?

The ICI focuses mainly on economic aspects and specifies the priorities of development and reconstruction and the types of aid that Iraq will need from the international community in the coming phase, including financial, administrative and technical support, as well as debt relief.

This aid rests on Iraq's promise to abide by a number of political, security and economic commitments. These are:

  • To enhance the political integration process

  • To establish internal harmony
  • To respect law and human rights
  • To protect citizens from terror
  • To produce professional security forces
  • To lay down an action framework for the budget
  • To build effective national institutions

Will Iran be taking part?

Iran announced its decision to take part in the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on 29 April, after initial reluctance to attend. Iran's position had been that the conference would serve US and Western interests and not necessarily those of the Iraqi people and the region.

Iran is opposed to the US military presence in Iraq but has denied providing shelter, materiel and training for insurgents.

Iranian National Security Council head Ali Larijani on 29 April ruled out a meeting between Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the conference. The Iranian reformist newspapers on 30 April, however, led with reports on the possibility of such a meeting.

What the media published was not necessarily true and Iran would take "a proper decision in this regard in due time", Mr Larijani said.

What problems does Jordan face as Iraq's neighbour?

Jordan is host to some 750,000 Iraqi refugees. These include relations of Saddam Hussein and Baath Party members.

Jordanian Interior Ministry Secretary-General Mukhaymar al-Mukhaymar said the security situation was presenting an increasing challenge to his country.

"Initial estimates indicate that the total cost of the presence of this large number of Iraqi citizens in Jordan on the Jordanian economy is not less than $1bn annually," he added.

What issues does Syria have with Iraq?

The influx of Iraqi refugees has put pressure on Syria's economy and infrastructure.

Syrian Assistant Foreign Minister Faysal Miqdad says: "Syria is hosting an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis - equal to 12% of its own population - and needs another $256m to continue providing them with aid, health care and education over the next two years."

Syria is accused of not taking sufficiently effective measures to halt the entry of insurgents into Iraq from across its border.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem says that his country is ready to help achieve security and stability in Iraq as the US is unable alone to solve the Iraqi problem.

On the possibility of a meeting between himself and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the talks, Mr al-Muallem said no request for such a meeting had been received by Syria, "but if Rice asks...I think I will meet with her".

What role does Turkey play?

Turkey controls a strategic crossing across Iraq's border in the Kurdistan Region.

Turkey, a Nato member, has carried out security operations in Iraq's Kurdistan Region against Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels. Turkey has also massed troops along the border of the Kurdistan Region.

Turkey has a stake in the dispute regarding the status of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk. Turkey backs the Iraqi Turkomans against Arab and Kurdish claims to Kirkuk. This matter has added urgency because the end of 2007 is the deadline for the holding of a referendum on whether Kirkuk becomes part of the Kurdistan Region or whether to maintain the status quo.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.


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