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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

King Salman of Saudi Arabia promises football stadium for Iraq

King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi discussed ways to strengthen ties between their two countries

A football fan waves the flag of Saudi Arabia during the friendly football match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the Basra Sports city stadium in Basra on February 28, 2018. Haidar Mohammed Ali / AFP
A football fan waves the flag of Saudi Arabia during the friendly football match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the Basra Sports city stadium in Basra on February 28, 2018. Haidar Mohammed Ali / AFP

King Salman of Saudi Arabia said he will build Iraq a football stadium following a friendly match between the two countries’ teams for the first time in almost four decades last week.

King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi discussed over the phone on Monday the “successful” football match and ways to strengthen ties between their two countries, said a statement released by Mr Al Abadi’s office.

“The King of Saudi Arabia expressed his happiness following the successful friendly match, saying it was an opportunity to gift Iraq a stadium and renew co-operation between the two nations,” said the statement.

“Al Abadi, in turn, said he was thankful for the game, stressing the importance of working with the kingdom to strengthen relations and on the big turnout to the game, which is something healthy and positive.”

The two leaders also discussed the Iraqi-Saudi Joint Coordination Council – a body created last October to improve strategic relations and help rebuild devastated areas retaken from ISIL in Iraq.

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Better relations are the goal in Iraq-Saudi football friendly

Iraqi-Saudi friendly match aims to lift Fifa embargo

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After the defeat of the extremist group in December, Baghdad is seeking to reconcile with Riyadh not only in political and economic matters but also in sports.

Last week’s friendly match – which resulted in 4-1 victory for Iraq – supports Baghdad’s bid to overturn a ban imposed by Fifa, football’s world governing body, on hosting international games.

The war-torn country has not hosted competitive international football matches for almost all of the last 30 years – ever since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait triggered an embargo. It was lifted briefly in 2012, but a power outage during a match against Jordan in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil led Fifa to reinstate it. Fifa will decide whether to lift the ban later in March.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Nato's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance plans to step up training of Iraq's armed forces.

He said the aim of setting up military academies was to ensure that ISIL "is never able to come back in the way we have seen before".

Nato is part of a global alliance that drove the extremist group from large areas in Syria and Iraq.

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