CAIRO: Arab countries and Iran welcomed the formation of the new Iraqi government, saying it opened the way for the region s powers to step up efforts to bring stability to the conflict torn nation.
After five months of wrangling, Iraq has a new cabinet in place under the helm of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who took the oath of office Saturday along with the 39-member Cabinet in the highly fortified green zone in Baghdad.
Arab officials worry that the violence in Iraq could spill over into its neighbors. They are also concerned that their own militant Islamists may find fertile training ground in Iraq and eventually return to their homelands to wreak havoc.
In neighboring Jordan, King Abdullah II said that he hoped parliament s vote for the new Cabinet would constitute a significant step toward building a new Iraq that would be able to fulfill the aspirations of its people for a better life, democracy, (political) pluralism and stronger national unity.
Abdullah conveyed those sentiments to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in a telephone conversation, the Jordanian Royal Palace said.
Jordan has said that the perpetrators of last year s bombing of three hotels in its capital Amman were Iraqis.
Meanwhile, Kuwait s leader, Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, wished the Cabinet success in serving the brotherly Iraqi people and expressed hope that its members would succeed in closing their ranks and using their capabilities in building Iraq, the state-owned Kuwait News Agency reported Al Sabah as saying in a telegram to Iraqi President Talabani.
Iraq occupied its southern neighbor Kuwait during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein was president. Speaking on behalf of his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki who Kuwait hosted for talks on Saturday, Al Sabah said that the time was ripe for a gathering of Iraq s neighbors. We agreed on the importance of holding this meeting as soon as possible, particularly now that there is an Iraqi government in place that is legitimate and constitutional, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Al Sabah told journalists.
It was agreed on in Istanbul that the neighboring countries meeting will be held in Tehran. We hope … that there will be a meeting as soon as possible, Kuwait s foreign minister said.
Representatives of the countries bordering Iraq have met on several occasions since the fall of Saddam s regime in April 2003 for talks that include security matters. Istanbul hosted the last gathering in July 2005.
But Iraqi foreign ministry officials said that they had not been officially informed by the Iranians about their intent to host the gathering.
Holding such a meeting should be discussed with us and the others, said Labeed Abbawi, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa hailed Saturday s inauguration as a a step on the right path toward restoring security and stability in Iraq, Egypt s semi-official Middle East News Agency reported.
Moussa was hopeful that with the new cabinet in place, a conference bringing together representatives of Iraq s ethnic and political-based forces could finally be held in Iraq and gave June as a possible date.
Plans to hold the Iraqi National Reconciliation Conference early this year was put on hold because of the rapid deterioration of security. AP