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Saudi denies security barrier with Iraq

April 11, 2006 at 6:05 AM   |   Comments

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 11 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia has denied foreign press reports that it plans to build a security barrier along its border with Iraq to beef up control over infiltration.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki was quoted in daily al-Riyadh as saying Tuesday that no barrier will be built along the 562-mile border with Iraq as part of an overall plan to increase the oil-rich kingdom's defense along its 4,062-mile borders.

"We are currently conducting a study on technical defense systems which we can use to beef up security measures along the border."

The Times of London reported Monday that Saudi Arabia had received offers from international contractors to build the alleged security barrier with Iraq at the cost of millions of dollars.

The British paper said many British security companies were interested in the project, which is aimed at guarding Saudi Arabia from the spread of sectarian violence, notably between Shiites and Sunnis, in addition to curbing the infiltration of fighters returning from Iraq.

The paper said Riyadh is worried about the growing influence of the Iran-backed Shiites in Iraq, and fears the barrier could encourage its Shiite minority community towards extremism.

Saudi Shiites mainly inhabit east Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the kingdom's oil wells are located.

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