Iraq Unveils Plan for Middle East Partnership
By Meredith Buel
10 December 2008
The Iraqi government has unveiled plans for a new regional economic and security partnership it says will help stabilize the Middle East.
In a presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says the significant reduction of violence in his country is opening an opportunity for an unprecedented level of regional cooperation.
"The level of threat has been reduced," said Ali al-Dabbagh. "I could say that there is a threat there in Iraq, but that level which everybody worried that Iraq might slip down to a civil war is no more. So I think that the Iraqi government's thinking that the formula of Iraq and its neighbors should be modified in a better way."
Al-Dabbagh says Iraq is at the heart of the proposed formula he says will help eliminate disputes over borders and natural resources such as oil, gas and water.
He says the Iraqi government will propose major joint projects with Turkey, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Persian Gulf countries to strengthen regional security.
"Large projects could integrate the region in transport, power and energy," he said. "The idea also of sharing nuclear power projects to cover the shortage and the demand and to eliminate a nuclear race in the region."
The Iraqi government spokesman says the recently approved security pact with the United States, which allows U.S. troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011, should lead to a new era of regional collaboration.
Al-Dabbagh says the area has been suffering from a long history of violence, which he says has led to a lack of trust among Iraq's neighbors.
He says a new peaceful, democratic Iraq should allow free trade and the movement of goods and people between countries.
"I think jointly Iraq and its neighbors, as well as the United States and European countries need to think about the role of Iraq in the region as well as to look to the region in a way which Iraq could play a major role in stabilizing the region and to eliminate all the threat which Iraq had in the past as well as the regional conflict," said Ali al-Dabbagh.
Al-Dabbagh says the Iraqi government has already discussed the plan informally with Kuwait, Syria and Turkey.
He says Iraq can play a key role in regional integration because it is moving toward a democratic system with an ethnic and sectarian makeup that reflects the region's diversity.
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