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United Arab Emirates to Open Embassy in Iraq

The United Arab Emirates has announced it is appointing an ambassador to Iraq and will open an embassy in Baghdad. The foreign minister made the announcement during a visit to the Iraqi capital. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern city of Irbil.

Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan's visit to Iraq is the first by an Emirates' top diplomat since the end of Saddam Hussein's reign in 2003.

Al-Nuhayyan met with Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday in an effort to strengthen diplomatic ties.

Following the meetings, the Emirati diplomat and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Mahmud Zebari held a joint press conference in the capital.

Al-Nuhayyan told journalists that the Emirates have asked Baghdad to send an ambassador to the UAE, and the Emirates plan to name an ambassador to Baghdad within the next few days.

He added that the Emirates hope to open an embassy in Baghdad in the coming weeks. This would make the Emirates the only Arab nation to have a full diplomatic mission in Iraq. For the past three years, no Arab country has had a permanent mission in the nation.

In recent months, the United States has increasingly pressed Arab nations to strengthen ties with Iraq's government.

The UAE withdrew all of its diplomats from Baghdad two years ago, after one of them was kidnapped in May of 2006. He was later released.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari said his government is serious about providing a high level of protection to all diplomatic envoys and buildings.

Emirates' Foreign Minister al- Nuhayyan emphasized that diplomats face dangers everywhere in the world, and Iraq is no exception. He said that he believes the dangers in Baghdad must be faced.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said his nation welcomes the return of Emirati diplomats to Iraq.

He also thanked the Emirati government for inviting Iraq's president, prime minister and president of parliament to visit Abu Dhabi.