WASHINGTON, July 27 (KUNA) -- A substantial number of the foreign fighters flowing into Iraq via Syria have come from Saudi Arabia, and others from Yemen and the Gulf States, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday during a department briefing.
"We are confident that the Saudi government is actively engaged on the issue of trying to cut off the flows of illicit funds to groups that are seeking to destabilize Iraq," McCormack said when asked about a New York Times story about the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq.
The Saudis are also "doing what they can to stop the flow of young men going from Saudi Arabia into Iraq via Syria who are bent on blowing themselves up or blowing up others," McCormack said. "You are never going to completely be able to cut off that flow, despite the best efforts of their government." U.S. officials have engaged with the Saudis, Egyptians and Gulf Arab states "to do what they can to support the Iraqi government in all variety of means, whether that is financially or diplomatically or on the security front, and this was the main topic of conversation at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference," McCormack said.
When U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates travel to the region next week, they will talk to the Saudis and others in the region about "how to impart greater momentum to the work of the working groups, as well as the work of the neighbors grouping as a whole to see what we can do to support the Iraqis," McCormack said.
While the Saudis have provided some support to the Iraqis, McCormack said, "We are looking for some more. They can follow through on their pledges of debt relief to the Iraqi government and providing them some security assistance." The United States also would like Saudi Arabia to reopen diplomatic representation in Baghdad, he said.
Historical differences and tensions in the region "are going to need to be overcome," McCormack said. "It is not just between Saudis and Iraqis." There are rifts within the region that go back centuries, and part of what the people of the region need to deal with is some of those rifts, he said, "because in some cases, those differences or those perceived differences lead to acts of violence. And that is something that is not good for anybody in the region, and it is not good for us, not good for our friends and allies." Whatever unhappiness may exist on the part of Iraq's neighbors with the actions of the Iraqi government, "it is in their strategic interest to see strategic stability in Iraq, an improved security situation in which the central government in Baghdad has control over law and order in all of Iraq, and has its writ of governing extend throughout the entire country," McCormack said. (end) rm.bs KUNA 272326 Jul 07NNNN