BAGHDAD: Iraq has decided not to participate in a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo because of comments by the Egyptian president questioning the loyalty of Shiites, Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said Tuesday.
We have taken a decision not to participate in the conference Wednesday, Al-Jaafari said after criticizing President Hosni Mubarak s comments in an interview with Al-Arabiya television.
During an interview aired Saturday, Mubarak said Iraqi Shiites across the Middle East are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries and that civil war has almost started in Iraq.
Al-Jaafari, who is a Shiite, said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari would not take part in the Cairo meeting. Al-Jaafari complained that the Egyptians had still not provided asatisfactory explanation for the comments.
Shiite societies differ from one country to another, Al-Jaafari said in a nationally televised news conference.
Every Shiite society has its unique characteristics. I am surprised that this confusion would occur among intellectuals, especially a man with such stature as the president of the biggest Arab country.
Al-Jaafari said hoped this mistake can be corrected. We take pride in our Iraqi identity. This means we respect the other identities, Al-Jaafari said. It is a strange thing that such comments would come from a country that we respect and appreciate. We cannot allow ourselves to be part of a country other than Iraq and we don t allow anyone to accuse us of such.
Jaafari described Mubarak s remarks on Sunday as a stab in their (Iraqi Shiites ) patriotism and civilization. Iraq had been due to join foreign ministers from Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates for Wednesday s meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. Agencies