Foreign ministers from around 20 countries have arrived in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for a conference on Iraq’s future.
They will be pressing the Iraqi interim government to talk to as many political factions as possible to avoid a boycott of landmark elections in January. Some Sunni groups have threatened to stay away from the polls because of the fierce US crackdown on the rebel city of Falluja. Several EU countries have dispatched their foreign ministers, and have stressed the importance of rallying regional and world powers to the cause of Iraq’s political and economic reconstruction. Yesterday an international group of creditors agreed to cancel a substantial part of the country’s debt. The conference will look at ways of securing Iraq’s borders to prevent infiltration by terrorists ahead of the election on January 30. The mideast diplomatic quartet will get together on the sidelines of the meeting to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also separate from the main proceedings, US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet his Syrian counterpart Faruk al-Shara; the two countries have tense relations.