July 6, 2008 / 12:01 PM / 9 years ago

United Arab Emirates approves Iraq ambassador: source

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates appointed on Sunday its new ambassador to Iraq, a UAE diplomatic source said, a step that eases Baghdad’s diplomatic isolation.

No ambassador from any Arab country has been stationed permanently in Baghdad since Egypt’s envoy was kidnapped and killed shortly after arriving in 2005.

The appointment of Abdullah Ibrahim al-Shehhi, currently envoy to India, has been approved by the Iraqi government and now awaits a final signature from the UAE president, the source said, but it was not clear when he would arrive in Baghdad.

The United States has been pressing Arab governments to support Iraq by forgiving debt and establishing high-level diplomatic representation in Iraq.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan visited Baghdad in June, in the first such move by a Gulf Arab foreign minister since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The UAE withdrew its top envoy from Iraq in May 2006 after one of its diplomats was kidnapped and held for nearly two weeks by Islamist militants. It has maintained only low level representation since.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in the UAE on Sunday on an official visit in which he is also expected to discuss the fate of his country’s almost $7 billion debt to the

UAE.

In growing signs Baghdad’s diplomatic isolation is easing, it is expecting visits soon from Jordan’s King Abdullah and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. King Abdullah would be the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since the invasion.

Sunni Arab governments have largely stayed away from Iraq since 2003, citing security concerns.

Analysts say Baghdad’s close ties with non-Arab, Shi‘ite Iran have also been behind the reluctance by Sunni Arab states to normalize ties.

Reporting by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia

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