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Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi chairman in Riyadh to meet Saudi officials

Faleh al-Fayyadh arrived in Riyadh on Thursday in an undeclared visit [Twitter]

Date of publication: 31 January, 2019

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Chairman of the Popular Mobilisation Forces Faleh al-Fayyadh arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday in an unannounced visit.
Faleh al-Fayyadh, Chairman of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic, arrived in Riyadh on Thursday in an unannounced visit which officials say is part of efforts to reassure Saudi Arabia of the PMF's presence in Iraq.

Fayyadh, whose candidacy for the post of interior minister is currently in dispute, met with senior Saudi officials during the visit, according to local media.

"They discussed the relations between both countries and stressed the importance of strengthening them," a source close to the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's office told The New Arab.

"The visit came within the framework of conveying reassurances to Riyadh over the presence of the PMF and the paramilitary group's openness towards the kingdom," the source added.

"There is also a personal interest for Fayyadh in this visit, who seeks Saudi backing for his candidacy for interior minister post."

Thursday's visit comes less than a month after Fayyadh visited war-torn Syria, where he met with President Bashar al-Assad.

The Shia-dominated PMF were instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State group, as they pushed IS militants back from the gates to Baghdad, and later drove them out of major cities across northern Iraq.

The Iran-backed force was established in 2014 after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Iraqi citizens to take up arms against IS militants who had swept aside government forces and seized control of much of northern Iraq, threatening the capital Baghdad itself.

The various forces within the Hashd al-Shaabi can field a total of between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters.

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