Saudis plan to fence off border, show Bush how it's done
SAUDI ARABIA has invited bids for the construction of a security fence along the entire length of its 900km (560mile) desert border with Iraq in a multimillion-pound project that will attract interest from British defence companies.
The barrier is part of a package to secure the Kingdom's 6,500km of borders in an attempt to improve internal security and bolster its defences against external threats.
Saudi Arabia is concerned that the chaos in Iraq could cause an overspill of sectarian violence and terrorism. The kingdom claims to be winning the battle against al-Qaeda's Saudi wing but wants to protect itself against Saudi insurgents returning from Iraq.
"There's no suggestion that the border isn't secure at the moment, so it could be a bit of an expensive white elephant," a European diplomat in Riyadh said. Saudi militants join ing the insurgency use other routes, such as Syria.
Riyadh is worried by the rise to power in Iraq of the Shia majority, with its close links with Iran, which Saudi Arabia mistrusts. It is concerned that its Shia minority, which is concentrated in the oil-producing eastern province, may become radicalised.