BAGHDAD (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates is to name an ambassador to Iraq within days, officials said on Thursday, in the first such move by a US ally in the Gulf since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. "The UAE will announce the nomination of an ambassador in the next few days, and will choose a new site for their embassy," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said. The announcement came during a landmark visit by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayahan, the first by such a high-ranking official from an Arab country in the Gulf since the US-led invasion of 2003. The official Emirati news agency WAM quoted the Foreign Minister as confirming the UAE will reopen its embassy and name an ambassador soon. The UAE withdrew its most senior diplomat - a charge d'affaires - from Baghdad in May 2006 after one of its diplomats was kidnapped by suspected militants and held for two weeks before being released. The UAE embassy has "not been fully functional" since, an Emirati official said. Sheikh Abdullah, on a previously unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital, held talks with Maliki as well as his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari and President Jalal Talabani. "Sheikh Abdullah's visit to Baghdad is the first by a foreign minister from any Gulf Cooperation Council country," the Emirati official told AFP, referring to the oil-rich group that also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. At an international meeting on Iraq in Stockholm last week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice encouraged "everyone to increase their diplomatic, economic, social and cultural engagement with the people of Iraq. "We especially urge Iraq's neighbours and friends to strengthen these ties through official visits to Iraq, the reopening of embassies and consulates, and the appointment of ambassadors," Rice said. A US official said last week that Arab states have been encouraged by the recent crackdown on Shiite militias by Maliki and motivated by a need to check Iranian-backed power plays in Lebanon. The statement from Maliki's office said his government was opposed to "sectarian strife and to illegality." It added that the government "wants to have better relations with the Emirates in all areas, and we hope (Thursday's) visit will mark the beginning of new relations between our two countries, especially in the areas of trade and investment."