Egypt to study upgrading diplomatic presence in Iraq

CAIRO – Egypt will send a team to assess security in Baghdad with a view to upgrading its diplomatic representation, reduced after the 2005 killing of an Egyptian diplomat, Egypt’s foreign minister was quoted as saying.

“We’ll soon send an Egyptian security team to Baghdad to identify all security, organizational and administrative aspects pertaining to the way to restore the official Egyptian diplomatic presence there,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in remarks published in Al-Gomhuria newspaper on Thursday.

“Egypt has a definite intention to resume diplomatic representation with Iraq,” he added.

But Egypt could not overlook that its last high-ranking diplomat in Iraq had been killed, Aboul Gheit told the state-owned newspaper. “We mustn’t be hasty in a manner that we might blame ourselves for,” he said.

Ihab el-Sherif, who headed Egypt’s diplomatic mission in Iraq, was abducted near his home in Baghdad in 2005 about a month after taking up his post as one of the highest ranking Arab diplomats in Iraq. He was later killed.

The Al Qaeda organization in Iraq claimed responsibility for killing Sherif, saying he was an “enemy of God” serving a tyrannical government allied to Jews and Christians.

Egypt reduced the size of its diplomatic mission in Iraq after the killing.

Aboul Gheit said that both Iraq and the United States were encouraging Egypt to re-establish its diplomatic presence in Iraq, but that Egypt would act based on its own interests.

“We have to be visible and be present on the Iraqi stage, but in an orderly fashion that achieves the safety of our personnel… Our representation in Iraq has to be present and effective and not leave this important Arab state to other powers to act on with Egypt absent,” Aboul Gheit said.

Earlier in February, Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari called on Arab states to send ambassadors to his country, saying it was “embarrassing” most had failed to do so almost five years after Saddam Hussein was toppled from power.

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