Iraq sends Syria first ambassador in decades

BAGHDAD  – Iraq will send Syria its first ambassador since around the time Saddam Hussein became president in 1979, a government official said Wednesday.

Alaa al-Jawadi would leave Wednesday to become Iraq’s new envoy in Damascus, Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, told Reuters.

Last October Damascus posted its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam’s takeover in Iraq strained ties with Syria, which for decades has been governed by a rival branch of the pan-Arab Baath party.

The Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been steadily upgrading its diplomatic ties with mostly Sunni-led fellow Arab nations after years of complaining that other Arab states had given post-Saddam Iraq the cold shoulder.

A few weeks after the Syrian envoy arrived in Baghdad last year, bilateral ties were frayed by a U.S. raid inside Syria’s border with Iraq, which Damascus said killed eight civilians.

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