Iraq premier ‘refuses’ Saudi-Emirati pressure to join anti-Qatar bloc

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Iraq’s prime minister has reportedly refused demarches from Saudi and Emirati officials to join the diplomatic offensive against Doha.

Iraqi prime minister has refused demarches from Saudi and UAE officials urging his government to join the diplomatic offensive against Qatar.

Haider al-Abadi has reportedly rejected “numerous incentives” from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to take a “negative stance” against Qatar and join the Saudi-led blockade against the small Gulf Arab state, Iraqi officials told The New Arab on Friday.

Baghdad has so far remained neutral in the largest diplomatic spat to hit the region in years.

“Over the past days, Iraq has been pressured by these countries to cut relations with Doha and join the group leading the blockade – but the government has refused,” parliamentarian Mohammed al-Abd Rabbo said.

“At this time, we do not want to stand with any state against another,” he added.

An Iraqi minister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, revealed that senior Saudi and Emirati officials have attempted to persuade Iraqi authorities to issue an official statement that “takes a negative stance” towards Doha.

“Abadi has told them that Baghdad is neutral in the crisis and that it will not boycott another country”, he said, adding that the PM is against playing the “role of a subordinate” such as other minor countries that have joined the Saudi-led alliance.

Yemen, the Eastern government of Libya, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal and the Comoros Islands all followed suit last month after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over allegations it bankrolled Islamist extremists.

Jordan, Djibouti, Chad and Niger have downgraded their relations with the emirate.

Last month, sources told The New Arab that a Gulf minister attempted to bribe the Somali president with $80 million to join the boycott of Qatar.

Abadi has said he opposes to the isolation of Doha by its neighbours because it hurt ordinary citizens.

“Regimes are not affected by the blockade; the blockade hurts people,” Abadi told reporters last month in Baghdad.

The Iraqi premier visited Saudi Arabia last month after he had postponed his trip to avoid appearing to take sides in the diplomatic dispute.

During the visit, Iraq and Saudi Arabia reportedly agreed to a prisoner exchange involving Islamic State group fighters and Iraqi militiamen.