In an unannounced surprise visit, chairman of the Lebanese parliamentary Future Bloc, Saad Al-Hariri, arrived in Baghdad to meet with a number of Iraqi officials. Saad met with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and conveyed his country’s commitment to the political process and the elected Iraqi government. The meeting between the two sides lasted nearly two hours, after which Al-Hariri accompanied the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali Al-Dabbagh, to a press conference, attended by Mawtani, at the headquarters of the Prime Minister.
Al-Dabbagh explained that Al-Maliki confirmed in the meeting Iraq’s commitment to a policy of non-interference in internal affairs, saying that his country would not allow others to interfere in internal Iraqi issues. Al-Dabbagh said Al-Maliki clarified that many commonalities bind Iraq and Lebanon, especially in that they both aim to lay firm foundations of international support for a state built on the basis of democracy ruled by institutions. Al-Dabbagh said Al-Maliki praised the historical relations which bring the two countries together. Ali said, “The Prime Minister said to Al-Hariri that Iraq desires to set up balanced and natural relations based on mutual respect between Iraq and all countries,” stressing “Iraq’s sincere desire for excellent interaction with its Arab environment, as Iraq is a part of the Arab system.”
For his part, Al-Hariri explained that the goal of his visit was to support the Iraqi government and affirm that the success of the democratic experiment in Iraq is crucial, as it is in Lebanon. Al-Hariri pointed out that the two countries face shared challenges represented in the attempts by certain known parties and states to interfere in their internal affairs; these parties are not pleased by the birth of democracy built on electoral competition. Al-Hariri said, “We were pleased by the Prime Minister’s proposal for the advancement of his country and we shared our views on that, for Iraq like Lebanon cannot advance unless focus is placed on the rebuilding and reconstruction portfolio. I consider myself half-Iraqi because I will spare no effort to provide any service to Iraq.”
The media advisor to the Prime Minister explained in his own statement to Mawtani that Al-Hariri met with Al-Maliki alone and informed him of a letter he received from Saudi Arabia on reinvigorating relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Al-Hariri said that he was prepared to help effectuate this aim.
Iraqi-Saudi relations had been tepid after Saudi Arabia apologized for arousing the resentment of the Iraqi government by expressing reluctance toward the Iraqi Prime Minister’s intended visit to a number of Arab countries. Al-Maliki had planned to begin the visit in Riyadh due to the significant regional weight carried by Saudi Arabia.
In a related context, the Chairman of the Council of Representatives, Mahmood Al-Mashhadani, along with his two deputies, met with Al-Hariri in Mahmood’s home, where they surveyed the bilateral relations between the two sides. Mahmood explained in a press statement after the meeting that the visit of the Lebanese delegation was important and that the two countries share nearly the same concerns, saying, “Iraq can overcome the security crisis and the sectarian strife by itself without the help of anyone, and we assured Shaykh Al-Hariri that Iraq represents the back door of the Arab community. We believe that the participation of Arabic companies—including Lebanese—in the reconstruction campaign in Iraq is necessary and important.”
Al-Hariri affirmed that Lebanese companies are fully prepared to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq and that his visit is intended to reactivate the economic portfolio between the two countries.
Al-Hariri also met with President of the Republic Jalal Talabani. According to a statement issued by the President’s office and obtained by Mawtani, Talabani praised Al-Hariri’s visit, stressed that Iraq is an inseparable part of the Arab system, and said that Iraq intends to build good relations with all neighboring countries.
Al-Hariri concluded his tour of Iraq by visiting holy Najaf province, where he met with religious guide Ali Al-Sistani, followed by a trip to the mausoleum of Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Al-Hariri then headed to the headquarters of the Mihrab Martyr’s Foundation, where he met with its chairman Ammar Al-Hakim.
During a press conference, Al-Hariri extended the invitation to Arabic countries to invest in Iraq, calling at the same time for these countries to deal more seriously with Iraq. He called for a greater diplomatic and Arabic presence in Baghdad to fill the void left by the absent Arab representatives in this important country.