Iraq tests regional muscle with Arab summit

March 26, 2012 18:41


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BAGHDAD - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will seek to showcase his country's diplomatic return to the region this week when leaders gather for the first Arab League summit in Baghdad in two decades, and the only one hosted by a Shi'ite Arab ruler.

With violence from its war waning and the last US troops gone, Iraq is keen to present itself as more stable and re-assert its clout in an often hostile Arab region, where the Iraqi Shi'ite-led government's rise riled Sunni Arab Gulf neighbors.

Neighboring Syria's upheaval will dominate the three-day summit among the Arab League leaders, who have been split over how to react to the violence between government troops and rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Wary of the region's delicate sectarian makeup, Baghdad must balance a fledgling detente with Sunni Arabs deeply suspicious of Iraq's ties to Shi'ite power Iran against calls for it to take a stronger stance against Tehran's main Arab ally Syria.

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