SLUG: 2-313129 Iraq Neighbors (L-O)
INTRO: Foreign ministers from Egypt and the six countries neighboring Iraq ended a two-day summit in Kuwait by calling for the United Nations to oversee the transfer of power to the Iraqi people. Kerry Sheridan reports from V-O-A's Middle East Bureau in Cairo that Iraq's neighbors also promised not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs, but said clamping down on terrorism in Iraq is vital to the region's security.
TEXT: Iraq's neighbors reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations in Iraq, and said the international body should work to expedite the departure of U-S led coalition authorities and set the groundwork for a speedy transfer of power to the Iraqis.
The group also condemned the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Iraq and called on the United States to "assume its responsibilities" in order to ensure safety and stability in Iraq.
The statement said that eliminating all terrorist groups and armed insurgents from Iraqi territory is crucial to security in the countries that border Iraq.
The foreign ministers said they support holding elections, but did not take a stance on whether they prefer direct elections, as called for by leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, or the U-S plan of choosing interim leaders through a system of caucuses.
Former Arab League secretary Esmat Abdel Meguid says the countries may be withholding their opinions on elections until the situation stabilizes.
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I think we have to be patient and see that the process of democratization in Iraq is working. This is the main objective we have to achieve. Security is necessary and I think it is something that is very much needed. Here the United States must look at it from that side, not from the side considering it as terrorism or illegal acts. After all Iraq is under Anglo-American occupation, and this occupation must come to an end. The return to the normal situation in Iraq will need support from all parties.
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Officials from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt have met to discuss Iraq's future before, but this weekend's summit was the first time their consultations included an Iraqi official.
In response to Arab concerns that Iraq may become divided along ethnic lines, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in Kuwait that Iraq is committed to a unity, but said that Iraqis will make their own decisions about their political future without interference from other countries. (SIGNED)
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