RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 20 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says Iraq has descended into civil war, and he fears the fighting could spread to neighboring countries.
"Civil war is a war between civilians and there is already war between civilians," Prince Saud al-Faisal said at a British-Saudi conference in Riyadh. "The threat of break-up in Iraq is a huge problem for the countries of the region, especially if the fighting is on a sectarian basis. This type of fighting sucks in other countries."
A week ago, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed the same opinion, which outraged the Iraqi government, which is grappling with daily bloodshed between majority Shiite Muslims and Sunnis.
However, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke after al-Faisal and disputed the allegation, The Telegraph reported.
"I do not believe there is a civil war in Iraq," Straw said. "There is a high level of sectarian violence, but also great restraint shown by Shiite leaders."
In recent months, Arab countries have expressed alarm at Iran's growing influence in Iraq, while the West has accused Syria of helping Sunni insurgents.