Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Baghdad on Sunday to protest his “interference” in the country’s internal affairs over remarks on militia forces fighting the Islamic State group. Thamer al-Sabhan is the first Baghdad-based Saudi ambassador in a quarter century, but while full diplomatic relations are restored, there is still significant hostility to Riyadh in some quarters and there have already been calls for the envoy’s expulsion. The foreign ministry summoned Sabhan “to inform him of its official protest regarding his media statements that represented interference in Iraqi internal affairs,” it said in a statement. Sabhan said in interview with Al-Sumaria television that the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces, which are dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, are not wanted in Sunni Arab and Kurdish areas as “they are not accepted by the sons of Iraqi society”. Iraq turned to Shiite militia forces in 2014 to help counter an IS onslaught that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, and they have played a key role in the fight against the jihadists.
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