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PublishDate: Tuesday, March 27, 201217:20

Baghdad spruces up for Arab summit

Authorities have sought to spruce up parts of the capital, particularly six hotels where delegates, journalists and officials will be staying.

But while thousands of soldiers and policemen have been drafted in and as much as $500 million spent to upgrade facilities and host the summit, insurgents have still been able to mount devastating attacks and little of the capital’s basic services or infrastructure have been improved.

Key to Iraq’s plans for hosting the summit are security preparations that include more than 100,000 security forces members deployed in Baghdad, locking down key roads, closing bridges, and using helicopters to provide over watch.

“There are more foot soldiers on the ground, there are more patrols,” Deputy National Security Adviser Safa Hussein told AFP in an interview.

“There will be sky cover, air cover, during the summit.” Hussein said Iraqi authorities had received intelligence reports of al-Qaeda’s front group, the Islamic State of Ira, seeking to carry out attacks, but added: “We think that the security will go well.”

He said the most likely form of attack during the summit was “indirect fire”, referring to mortars or rockets.

Security forces have mooted plans to essentially shut down Baghdad on March 29, when Arab leaders are to arrive for the first such meeting to be held in the Iraqi capital since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Already, several major roads have been closed for days, worsening Baghdad’s already choking traffic, and checkpoint searches have been dramatically toughened, with security officers checking vehicle licence plates against lists of suspected attackers.

The government has meanwhile declared a week of holidays from March 25 until the end of the summit, in the hopes of keeping masses of people at home.

Despite the tightened measures, however, Islamic State of Iraq was still able to carry out a wave of attacks last Tuesday in which 50 people were killed and 255 wounded.

Among the acts of violence was a car bombing in a parking lot directly opposite the foreign ministry in central Baghdad that left three people dead.

Authorities have also sought to spruce up parts o

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