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Saudi Arabia pledges $500 million to Iraq

Move comes with promise to cross over sectarian boundaries
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has pledged $500m to Iraq in humanitarian aid, a foreign ministry spokesperson announced on Tuesday. 

Saudi Arabia’s ruler King Abdullah has “ordered $500m in humanitarian aid to the brotherly people of Iraq affected by the painful events, including the displaced, regardless of their religion, sect or ethnicity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The emphasis on the non-sectarian nature of the aid likely stems from the antagonistic relationship between Abdullah and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki which has been further tested by the uprising against Maliki's rule. 

The King has accused Maliki of being responsible for the current unrest in the country as a result of his pro-Shia, anti-Sunni policies, which he alleges have led to the rise of the Islamic State (IS). Maliki, in turn, has blasted the Saudi authorities for supporting the militants and funding terrorism. 

The United Nations says 1.2 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes by violence this year, hundreds of thousands of them by a three-week-old Sunni militant offensive that has swept up a swathe of territory north of Baghdad.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has been informed of the Saudi aid, which will be "provided through UN agencies to the Iraqi people only," the statement said.

Iraq entered a new phase of confrontation with militant groups earlier this month when IS fighters advanced into the northern Nineveh and Saladin provinces, sparking what many analysts believe is a wider Sunni uprising that forced the Shia-dominated Iraqi army to beat a hasty retreat.

The ongoing crisis has sparked widespread regional and international concern, especially amongst neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan that are all on high alert and fear that IS fighters may soon launch attacks on within their borders. 

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