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Iraqi Conference Brings Together Iran, Saudi Arabia, Other Regional Players

Senior parliamentary members from Iraq and neighboring countries meet on April 19 in Baghdad.
Senior parliamentary members from Iraq and neighboring countries meet on April 19 in Baghdad.

Parliamentary officials from Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, expressed support for Baghdad’s efforts to rebuild following the government's recapture of territory from Islamic State (IS) militants after a bloody four-year battle.

A statement issued after a conference in Baghdad on April 20 said that “heads of parliaments in the neighboring countries emphasize backing for Iraq’s stability, its territorial integrity, and social unity after it achieved its big victory [over IS].”

"The stability of Iraq is necessary for the stability of the region," said the statement, which was also signed by attendees from Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, and Syria.

The attendees also rejected "interference" in Baghdad’s internal affairs, although most have political and economic interests in Iraq.

Shi'ite Iran has wielded influence in Iraq since dictator Saddam Hussein's ouster following a 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and it backs powerful Shi'ite militias in the country.

Iraq has attempted to balance relations with Iran and the United States, which considers Tehran a supporter of “malign” activities in the Middle East.

Washington, which provides Baghdad with financial and military support, has imposed financial sanctions on Iran, although it has given Baghdad waivers to continue to do business with Tehran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has attempted to enhance his country’s role as a regional mediator by bringing together archrivals Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Mahdi recently visited the two countries that have long battled for influence in the Middle East.

Many of Iraq's leaders, from its Shi'ite majority, have close ties with Iran, the main Shi'ite power in the Middle East.

Iraqi government forces, supported by U.S. air power, drove IS fighters from nearly all of the territory that extremists captured in 2014. Shi'ite militias also played a role in driving out the militants.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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