Iraq, Egypt begin to break ice

Iraq - which led the Arab isolation of Egypt following the 1978 Camp David accords - has begun to reestablish ties with Cairo, though without opening diplomatic relations.

Egyptian officials blame Saudi Arabia for Iraqi reluctance to set up official ties, reports Monitor contributor James Dorsey. Saudi Arabia, these officials say, fears that its leadership of the Arab world may be endangered by the formal return of Egypt to the Arab fold. Saudi reluctance to share the driver's seat in the Arab world has stopped other moderate Arab states, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco, from ending the diplomatic boycott of Egypt.

The limited ties followed the visit to Egypt of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, the first official Iraqi visitor since 1979. Iraq is seeking aid - especially troops - in its 33-month-old war with Iran. Egypt is believed to have supplied Iraq with arms during the past year worth more than $1 billion. An estimated 12,000 Egyptian volunteers are reported to be siding wtih Iraqi troops.

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