Manama: The Saudi Ambassador to Iraq whom Baghdad wants to be recalled by his home country said that the policy of Saudi Arabia towards Iraq would remain steady and would not be affected by the request.

“Saudi Arabia will not change its convictions and will not give up on the Arabism of Iraq,” Thamer Al Sabhan said. “Saudi Arabia will intensify its efforts to achieve the welfare of honourable Iraqis. The ambassador represents the policy of his country, and not his person,” Al Sabhan told the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat daily.

The ambassador had presented his credentials to the Iraqi president in January as the first Saudi ambassador in Baghdad after a hiatus of more than 25 years caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

However, statements about the power and threats of the militias in Iraq have made his presence in the country “undesirable” by radical groups hostile to Saudi Arabia.

The statements culminated last week when Al Sabhan said he was provided with information about plans to assassinate him and that sectarian radical groups were behind the threats.

On Saturday, Iraq officially asked Saudi Arabia to recall Al Sabhan.

“The Iraqi foreign ministry has sent an official request to the Saudi foreign ministry to replace its ambassador to Iraq,” ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal said in a statement.

“Several statements and opinions voiced in the media overstepped the boundaries of diplomatic protocol and of an ambassador’s duties,” he said.

An official from the Iraqi foreign ministry said that Baghdad was “very keen” on developing relations with Saudi Arabia, “a good neighbour.”

“The call to replace the ambassador will not affect, from our side, the present or future of these relations, and in fact, we look forward to positive developments,” Ahmad Jamal, the spokesperson for the Iraqi foreign ministry, told the daily.

However, Al Sabhan said he was surprised by the Iraqi reaction towards an Arab country despite the interference of Iran in its domestic affairs.

“Some components of the Iraqi society may have been upset by my recent remarks to the media, but they do not represent the Iraqi people. We have received all love and compassion from the Iraqi people who are keen on cooperation between Riyadh and Baghdad. We do appreciate that some of them suffer from the interference of military advisors from countries in the region in their internal affairs.”

Citing sources it did not identify, Al Sharq Al Awsat said that the decision by the Iraqi government to replace Al Sabhan was taken without consulting Iraqi ministers of the parliament.

Dhafer Al Aani, an Iraqi lawmaker member of the foreign relations commission, said that the Iraqi government did not have ample arguments to request the recall of the Saudi ambassador.

“The latest statement attributed to the ambassador was a response to the provocation to his person and to Saudi Arabia from parties that do not wish to see relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq improve in any way,” he said. “Has the Iraqi government held anyone accountable for the provocative statements? The government should reconsider its decision, especially that it was taken without consulting anyone. Iraq should be truly keen on establishing outstanding relations with Saudi Arabia. The recall request was not a cordial decision, especially that we exerted huge efforts to re-open the Saudi embassy in Baghdad after a long absence.”