Report: Former Iraqi Diplomat in Israel for Rare Visit

Israeli media quote Hamad Al-Sharifi, 55, as saying he hopes to someday serve as Baghdad's ambassador to the Jewish state.

Eyal Toueg

A former diplomat for Iraq in Kuwait and Jordan was due in Israel on Sunday for an official visit, Israeli media reported.

The Ynetnews website reported that Hamid Al-Sharifi, 55, plans to meet with Israelis of Iraqi descent, Knesset members, and religious leaders, tour holy sites including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, and visit the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and Yad VaShem.

According to the report, Al-Sharifi, now a researcher in London who writes modern interpretations of the Koran, said he had been invited by a deputy spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and that "one day, I hope that I will be the Iraqi ambassador to Israel."

"I consider myself a friend of Israel," he was quoted as saying. "At this time, Arabs need to understand that there is no conflict between Israel and Arab states, rather there is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I hope that it will end and peace will reign."

Al-Sharif was Iraq's official representative to Kuwait in 2005-2006, and served as political advisor and deputy chief of mission for the Iraqi embassy in Jordan in 2006. He has also served as an adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.