Iraq's Sunni Vice President starts Egypt's visit, seeks help to stabilize war-torn nation

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CAIRO: Iraq s Sunni Arab Vice President, Tariq Al-Hashemi, was in Egypt Monday to seek help from the Arab region s most populous country to stabilize his strife-torn country.

We are in dire need of help and cooperation to exchange views on how to end the Iraqi bottleneck, Al-Hashemi told reporters after his arrival. Egypt s pan-Arabism has never let down Iraq. Speaking to reporters after receiving Al-Hashemi at Cairo s airport, Nazif said Egypt is prepared to extend hands to all the Iraqi parties to put Iraq in the path of stability. Al-Hashemi, who later met the Arab League s chief Amr Moussa, said the Iraqi government needed to do more to reconcile with individuals opposed to it, referring to minority Sunni groups battling against the Shia government.

We have a long way ahead to achieve a strong Iraqi reconciliation, he said.

Moussa encouraged the Iranians and the Americans to continue their dialogue on stabilizing Iraq and said that Iraq s future was a concern for all Arab countries.

The [Iran-US] dialogue is an active attempt to calm down the issues and solve the problems away from military conflict, and we hope that the dialogue will continue in favor of tranquility, Moussa said.

Al-Hashemi, who is making his first visit to Cairo since he was picked for the job last year, is scheduled to meet President Hosni Mubarak and have talks with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and other top Egyptian officials. He is also expected to meet with Sheikh Mohammed Seyed Tantawi, Egypt s top Muslim cleric.

Like other Sunni Arab nations, Egypt has expressed worries about the rise of power by Iraq s majority Shias after the 2003 US-led invasion which ended the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein.

Mubarak angered Iraqi leaders in 2005 by saying Shias in Iraq and across the Middle East are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries in a frank warning of possible civil war in Iraq.

The visit by Al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni Islamic Party, comes on the heels of a visit by Iraq s Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

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