Iraq wants Saudi Arabia to appoint a new ambassador to Baghdad, replacing Thamer al-Sabhan who is accused of making controversial statements and creating tension between the two countries. The Iraqi government also accused the 49-year-old Saudi diplomat of interfering in Iraq's domestics matters.

Ahmed Jamal, spokesman for the Iraqi foreign ministry, was quoted in the local media as saying on Sunday (28 August) that their senior officials have already placed a request with Riyadh, urging the kingdom to find a replacement for the current ambassador.

Trouble for al-Sabhan escalated after he accused Iraq's pro-government Popular Mobilization Units of plotting to assassinate him, a claim flatly dismissed by Iraq. Jamal, reiterating the government's earlier statements on the issue, termed the allegations "inaccurate", and said such claims are only meant to damage relations between the two Middle East nations.

The two nations are seen as regional rivals in the Middle East and their diplomatic ties have reportedly been renewed in the recent past after more than two decades of hostilities.

The Saudi ambassador was reportedly quoted by London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on 21 August as saying that Popular Mobilization Units — the Shia volunteer force in Iraq fighting Islamic State (Isis) — had targeted his convoy with "rocket-propelled grenades".

However, Jamal said Iraqi security personnel under the Baghdad Operations Command are protecting all diplomatic missions and embassies in Baghdad and there were no reports of any threats to the Saudi ambassador, Press TV reported.

The demand for replacing al-Sabhan comes after several warnings given to the ambassador by Iraqi officials over his alleged interference in the country's internal affairs. In June, it was reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi also strongly advised al-Sabhan to avoid intervening in his country's domestic affairs.