Iraqi delegation heads to Saudi Arabia

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An Iraqi delegation headed to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to hold negotiations over fighting the al-Qaida terror network, a senior Iraqi official said.

"There is no doubt that the majority of the suicide bombers and those who drive the vehicles to blow up our innocent civilians, Iraqis, are Saudis," said Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, who heads the delegation. "We need to stop the flow of suicide bombers, we need to stop the fatwas (religious edicts) coming from Saudis to justify the killings of innocent Iraqis."

"We need to coordinate our work and get into common understanding with the Saudis, the Saudi brothers, to stop this," he said.

Iraqi officials say that most of the suicide attacks that have killed thousands of people in the past years were carried by non-Iraqi Arabs. U.S. officials have said only that they believe a "good majority" are suicide attackers are not Iraqis.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, has major influence among Sunnis, the sect that ruled Iraq for decades until the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003 when Shiites took control of the government.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iraq are in the same front fighting al-Qaida and al-Qaida poses the same threat to Iraq, as well as to the Saudis. Both governments need to join forces and join their effort to defeat al-Qaida both in Iraq and in Saudi," al-Rubaie said.

"We need to exchange information, we need to coordinate work, we need to exchange intelligence to defeat al-Qaida," he said.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is one of the most active among insurgent groups in Iraq and has claimed responsibility for the killing of Shiite leaders as well as deadly attacks against Shiite civilians.

Al-Qaida, founded by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, had also carried attacks against local and western interests in Saudi in the past years.

"All indications point to that the Saudi authorities and the Saudi officials are prepared to cooperate with us and to join forces and join efforts with us to defeat al-Qaida, both on security and political level," al-Rubaie said.

"We are very hopeful that we are in the same boat with the Saudis to defeat al-Qaida and the extremists," he said adding that "The only way to guarantee Iraq's unity, independence and the sovereignty ... is by backing the central government in Baghdad and helping in the building of Iraqi forces in order to defeat al-Qaida."

It was not clear if the delegation will speak with the Saudi officials about the political crisis in which the main Sunni bloc is boycotting parliament and Cabinet meetings, or about sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

In January, a top Saudi Sunni cleric declared Shiites around the world to be heretics and urged Sunni Muslims around the world to expel Shiites from their land.

Abdullah bin Jabrain, a key members in Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment, joined a chorus of other senior figures from the kingdom's hard-line Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam who have deemed Shiites as infidels.

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