Iraq PM seeks to soothe security concern on Saudi visit

Iraq will never become a launchpad for attacks on Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi pledged Wednesday during a long-awaited visit to the kingdom aimed at forging closer economic and security ties.

In January, explosive-laden drones crashed into the main royal palace in Riyadh, with American media citing US officials as saying they were launched from neighboring Iraq.

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Saudi officials did not publicly disclose any details on the reported attack on the sprawling Al-Yamama complex, the official residence, and office of King Salman as well as the main base of the royal court.

But the news raised alarm in a country that has frequently come under missile and drone attacks from Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in Yemen, where Riyadh-backed forces are engaged in a six-year conflict.

A relatively unknown militant group in Iraq calling itself the Righteous Promise Brigade claimed responsibility for the strike, but it was considered by security experts to be a front for more entrenched Iran-backed militias.

Kadhemi said the group’s claim was “not true” and insisted that the attack was not launched from Iraq.

“We will not allow any attack on the kingdom,” he told reporters after what his aides described as an hours-long meeting with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“There haven’t been any attacks” from Iraq.

“There have been attempts by some to… disrupt relations” between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, he added, without elaborating.

Known to maintain close personal ties with Prince Mohammed, Kadhemi walks a diplomatic tightrope as Baghdad often finds itself caught in the tug of war between Tehran and its rivals Riyadh and Washington.

Kadhemi’s trip comes after the countries reopened their Arar land border crossing in November for the first time since Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties with Baghdad in 1990, following Iraqi ex-dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

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