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Iraq conference urges unity, sets no deadline for troop pullout

RIA Novosti

04/05/2007 18:44 SHARM EL-SHEIKH, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - An international security conference on Iraq ended in Egypt Friday with a joint statement urging to preserve the country's unity and defend its sovereignty, but setting no deadline for foreign troops pullout.

The two-day conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh gathered foreign ministers from 60 countries, including the Group of Eight industrialized nations, the UN secretary general, the UN Security Council members, the Arab League head and the EU foreign policy chief.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar al-Zibari told a concluding news conference that all the sides had assumed the commitment to promote the unification of Iraq, currently rocked by sectarian clashes, and to defend its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. He said the meeting had also helped revise progress achieved since the previous conference held in Baghdad March 10.

"In a word, the main goal outlined in the concluding statement could be described as stability and security," the minister said, adding it would help create a strong Iraq because "nobody is interested in a weak Iraq these days."

In the final statement, nations neighboring Iraq - Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan - promised to provide practical assistance in restoring Iraq's security, but also pledged not to interfere in its internal affairs.

The countries' ministers said they would thwart any attempts to use their territory for organizing terrorist attacks on Iraq, or to smuggle terrorists and weapons to and from Iraq.

The statement failed to set any deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the oil-rich country, but mentioned the need to determine the timeframe. An Iraqi government representative said earlier a pullout would only be possible after Iraqi security forces were able to take responsibility for law and order.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was important to inform the Iraqi people when the troops would leave the country because their presence was disturbing to the majority of the Iraqi population.

Lavrov also called for a political dialogue inside Iraq and for all confessional and political groups to be represented in Iraqi government agencies.

The Russian minister said the Sharm el-Sheikh conference had also produced an important agreement on forming a group of experts who would monitor progress in the resolution process and report their further recommendations at every conference, including at the next meeting to be held in the same format in Turkey in the fall.

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