BAGHDAD/RIYADH, March 23 Saudi Arabia's King
Salman has invited Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to visit
the kingdom, Abadi's office said on Monday, in the biggest sign
yet of improving ties between the countries after decades of
Abadi's office gave no details about the invitation or
possible visit, which would be his first as prime minister,
including when it might take place. But the invitation caps
months of better cooperation between Riyadh and Baghdad since
the prime minister replaced Nouri al-Maliki last summer.
Iraq and Saudi Arabia have found new room to cooperate with
each other in the fight against the Islamic State group, which
both see as a threat, but long-held suspicions persist.
Saudi Arabia hopes Abadi will do more to include Iraqi
Sunnis in the government than Maliki did, and will prove more
able to distance himself from Iran, Baghdad's main ally and
Riyadh's biggest regional foe.
"His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia in his turn expressed
Saudi Arabia's desire to open horizons of cooperation with Iraq
... and gave an invitation to Prime Minister Abadi to visit
Saudi Arabia," said the statement on Abadi's office's website.
Riyadh said last year it would reopen its Baghdad embassy
soon, after closing its doors in August 1990 when Iraq invaded
Kuwait, but ensuring the mission's security is complicating the
process, diplomats in the Gulf say.
Since a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, Saudi
Arabia has regarded Baghdad's leaders as little more than
puppets for Tehran, something relayed in numerous U.S. embassy
cables released by WikiLeaks.
(Reporting By Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing
by William Maclean and Alan Raybould)