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Saudi Arabia to build 900km fence along Iraq border

Fears over continuing instability in Iraq have prompted Saudi to step up security on its border
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meets with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has announced the construction of a 900km fence across its border with Iraq, according to Saudi state media.

The Saudi monarch King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz disclosed the details of the fence on Friday, saying it was intended to tackle “infiltrators, drug, arms and cattle smugglers.”

The project will involve five layers of fencing as well as watch towers, night-vision camera and radars aimed at tackling an increasingly unstable situation in the neighbouring country.

The fence will reportedly have 32 rapid response centres, three rapid intervention squads, 38 back and front gates, 78 monitoring towers, 10 monitoring and surveillance vehicles, 1,450,000 meters of fiber optics networks and 50 radars. It will stretch from Hafar al-Batin, near the Iraq-Kuwait border, to the northeast town of Turaif.

Riyadh signed a deal in July 2009 with European aerospace and defense contractor EADS - the Dutch corporation reorganised earlier this year and now known as Airbus Group - to build a security fence on 9,000km of the country's borders.

The announcement has been greeted with skepticism on social media:

Saudi Arabia has become increasingly anxious about the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the potential threat to the country's royal family from the militant group that regards monarchy as illegitimate.

In July, the country sent 30,000 soldiers to its border, fearing an overspill of the conflict in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia has already constructed a 1800km barrier along its border with Yemen after that country descended into instability, fearing attacks by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who also oppose the Saudi state.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have experienced strained relations in recent times with King Abdullah blaming the former Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for the sectarian strife in the country and Maliki accusing Saudi Arabia of supporting “terrorism.”