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Lebanese Parliament Majority Leader Visits Iraq


Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader is in Iraq where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the capital, Baghdad.

In a statement released Thursday, the Iraqi government says Sunni Muslim parliamentary leader Saad al-Hariri met with Mr. Maliki earlier today. The statement says Hariri praised the improved security situation in Iraq.

Iraq's government has been trying to establish closer ties to other nations in the region.

In a related development, Kuwait's official news agency reports the country has named former military chief of staff Ali al-Momen as its first ambassador to Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War.

The United States has been urging Sunni-ruled Arab states to establish high-level diplomatic representation to the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.

Kuwait's decision comes shortly after the United Arab Emirates and Jordan named their own ambassadors to Iraq. Bahrain also has announced plans to appoint an envoy.

In other news, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says Prime Minister Maliki will begin a scheduled trip to Germany and Italy on Monday. The Iraqi leader is expected to meet with German government leaders as well as Pope Benedict XVI during his visit.

Meanwhile, security remains a concern in northern Iraq, where the U.S. military blamed al-Qaida in Iraq militants for a car bomb attack Wednesday that killed 15 people.

A military statement says 95 civilians and three Iraqi security forces were wounded in the attack in a market in the town of Tal Afar, in Nineveh province.

Also Wednesday, U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq transferred control of the Shi'ite-majority Qadisiyah province to Iraq's central government. The province, located south of Baghdad, is the 10th of 18 provinces to return to Iraqi control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.