Talabani urges Arab countries to send envoys to Iraq

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KUWAIT, Nov 16 (Reuters) Iraqi President Jalal Talabani urged Arab countries in remarks published today to send ambassadors to Baghdad, which he said was safe for them.

Several diplomats have been kidnapped and killed by suspected al Qaeda militants in Baghdad since the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

''We know that terrorists represented a danger for Arab ambassadors in the past, but I affirm this stage is now over,'' the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) quoted Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, as saying in an interview.

The United States has urged Sunni Arab states to open embassies in Baghdad as a sign of support for the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Saudi Arabia said in August it would send a mission to explore opening an embassy in Baghdad for the first time since the invasion.

''We as an Iraqi government pledge to guarantee the safety of Arab ambassadors and their embassies and pledge to provide security teams to protect them,'' Talabani said during a visit to the Gulf Arab state.

''The presence of Arab ambassadors would help us in enhancing Iraqi-Arab ties,'' he said.

REUTERS PY VC2255

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