Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 14:26 UK

Emirates to send envoy to Baghdad

The foreign minister of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan
Sheikh Abdullah is the first Gulf foreign minister to visit Iraq for years

Iraq says the United Arab Emirates will name an ambassador to Baghdad within days, the first such move by one of the US-allied Gulf states in several years.

The announcement came during a visit by the UAE foreign minister, who is the highest-ranking Gulf official to go to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.

The US has been urging the mainly Sunni-led Arab states to do more to bolster Iraq's US-backed government.

Baghdad has had no Arab envoys based there since Egypt's was killed in 2005.

Egyptian ambassador Ihab al-Sherif was abducted in July of that year and killed a few days later, prompting many Arab missions to withdraw diplomatic staff, and domestic criticism of Cairo that the appointment of an ambassador was premature.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan on a previously unannounced visit held talks with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki as well as his counterpart Hoshyar Zebari and President Jalal Talabani.

Washington and Baghdad have been calling for the mainly Sunni-led Arab governments to establish high-level diplomatic representation with Mr Maliki's Shia-led government.

The US and Iraq have also been seeking debt forgiveness from the Gulf states.

Iraq owes more than $60bn (30bn) in debt in total, with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia among the biggest creditors. It also owes about $28bn in compensation claims dating from the 1991 Gulf War.

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