Alexa

Iraq summons Syrian diplomat in Baghdad over bombs

Iraq summons Syrian diplomat in Baghdad over bombs

Iraq's foreign ministry summoned a senior Syrian diplomat in Baghdad Wednesday amid a diplomatic row over Iraqi demands for the extradition of two suspected bomb plotters.
The Iraqi government _ under heavy criticism for security lapses that allowed suicide truck bombers to get close to key government institutions _ has blamed a Syria-based alliance of Saddam Hussein loyalists known as Baathists and al-Qaida in Iraq for the Aug. 19 attacks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi met with the No. 2 Syrian diplomat in Baghdad, Bassam Haj Hassan, to discuss Iraqi demands that Damascus turn over two purported Baathist operatives allegedly linked to the bombings, which struck the foreign and finance ministries and killed about 100 people.
During the meeting, Abbawi explained the reasons for Iraq's demands and the measures to be taken by the Iraqi government following a preliminary investigation the deadly attacks, according to a statement.
In turn, Hassan asked the Iraqi government to send a delegation to Damascus to present evidence to support the claims.
The meeting occurred a day after the two countries announced they were recalling their respective ambassadors over the issue, raising tensions just a week after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and called on Damascus to hand over people suspected of Sunni insurgent links and to stop fighters from crossing the border into northern Iraq.
An al-Qaida in Iraq front group claimed responsibility for the bombings in an Internet statement on Tuesday, but the Iraqi government says Baathist operatives planned and financed the attacks and aired a televised confession from a man who identified the Iraqis in Syria.
Such links are politically explosive, particularly before January elections in Iraq.
The question of what to do with Saddam-era officials in the civil service, army and police has been at the heart of the Sunni-Shiite divide since the overthrow of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime in 2003 and has been a major hurdle to national reconciliation efforts.
In a separate development, Iraqis mourned the death of a revered Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who died Wednesday after being hospitalized in critical condition in Tehran where he was being treated for lung cancer.