Saudi wants secure borders to avoid Iraq violence
RIYADH, Sep 14 (Reuters) Saudi Arabia is trying to secure its borders with Iraq to prevent violence in its northern neighbour spilling into the wider region, a Saudi official said today.
''Saudi Arabia is keen to control the shared borders to prevent infiltration and smuggling, and to encircle the terrorists and close in on them, in order to stop the terrorism that has become so grave in Iraq,'' Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed al-Salem told regional officials in Jeddah.
Security representatives are meeting in the Saudi city ahead of a gathering of interior ministers from countries bordering Iraq on Monday.
''Security in Iraq is part of the security of countries bordering Iraq, they all influence each other one way or another,'' he said in comments on the Saudi official news agency.
''Saudi Arabia has acted to support the Iraqi people to get over this test ... Hardly a day passes without the media showing us painful and sad scenes in Iraq of destruction and murder.'' Saudi Arabia and other countries are worried that sectarian violence which has spiralled in Iraq since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003 could spill over and create tensions within their own borders. They also fear Iraq's break-up.
''You standing with us is the proof that terrorism is not against Iraq alone but against the whole region,'' Iraqi police official Fakher al-Kaabi said.
Officials in Saudi Arabia, which has a 1,000 km desert border with Iraq, have already talked of their concern that Saudis who have gone to fight with Sunni insurgents against the Shi'ite authorities could return to fight in Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda militants launched a violent campaign against the US-allied Saudi monarchy in 2003. Estimates of the number of Saudi militants in Iraq range from several hundred to several thousand.
Saudi Arabia is also concerned about the influence in Iraq of Shi'ite power Iran, which has become a close ally of the government in Baghdad.
Saudi Arabia has a Shi'ite minority with cultural and historical links to their co-religionists in both Iran and Iraq.
REUTERS LL HS2206