Iraq's Sunni Vice President Starts Egypt Visit

Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, was in Egypt Monday to seek help from the Arab region's most populous country to stabilize his strife-torn country.

"We are in dire need to for help and cooperation to exchange views on how to end the Iraqi bottleneck," al-Hashimi told reporters after his arrival. "Egypt's pan-Arabism has never let down Iraq."

Al-Hashimi, who is making his first visit to Cairo since he was picked for the job last year, is scheduled to meet President Hosni Mubarak and have talks with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and other top Egyptian officials. He is also expected to meet with the Arab League's chief Amr Moussa and Sheik Mohammed Seyed Tantawi, Egypt's top Muslim cleric.

Like other Sunni Arab nations, Egypt has expressed worries about the rise of power by Iraq's majority Shiites after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which ended the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein.

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Mubarak angered Iraqi leaders in 2005 by saying Shiites in Iraq and across the Middle East are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries in a frank warning of possible civil war in Iraq.

The visit by al-Hashimi, leader of the Sunni Islamic Party, comes on the heels of a visit by Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Speaking to reporters after receiving al-Hashimi at Cairo's airport, Nazif said Egypt is prepared to extend hands to all the Iraqi parties to "put Iraq in the path of stability."

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