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Iraq: Baghdad's Neighbors Want U.S.-led Forces Out Soon

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 19 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The foreign ministers of eight Middle East nations are calling for U.S. and British forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible. The call came in a statement issued in Riyadh early today after a meeting of foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Iran -- which all share a border with Iraq -- as well as from the foreign ministers of Egypt and Bahrain.

The statement set no deadline for the withdrawal. It said the Iraqi people should alone administer and govern their country, and that the United Nations should play a central role in rebuilding Iraq.

The foreign ministers also condemned U.S. threats against Syria for allegedly harboring members of the ousted Iraqi regime and developing chemical weapons -- charges Syria denies.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military says Iraqi police have arrested Iraq's former finance minister, Hikmat al-Azzawi, and turned him over to U.S. forces in Baghdad. The arrest means the U.S. military now has in custody five men on its list of 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.

Earlier today, U.S. officials said an Iraqi believed to have been involved in the country's suspected nerve-gas program has surrendered to U.S. forces. Imad Husayn Abdallah al-Ani was not on the most-wanted list.