Iraqi PM accuses neighbours of meddling
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Last Updated: Monday, April 12, 2010, 23:37
Baghdad: Iraq's prime minister accused neighbouring states Monday of meddling in his country's internal affairs to try to influence the formation of the government after elections produced no clear winner and left his party in second place.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not name any country. But Iran's ambassador to Baghdad said Saturday that all political blocs including Sunnis should play a role in the new Iraqi government, a remark seen as a blow to al-Maliki. Iran has promoted Shiite power since the fall of Saddam Hussein but this shift gave a boost to Ayad Allawi, whose party came in first in the March 7 election with heavy support from Sunnis.

"Our message is clear: Do not interfere in our affairs," al-Maliki said. He told a government committee meeting he was upset to hear representatives of neighbouring states talking on television as if they were Iraq's "guardians."

Al-Maliki has refused to accept the election results and the accusation was just the latest in his almost-daily complaints. On Sunday, his party claimed its investigation into the election had thrown into question 750,000 votes — enough to change the results.

Iraqi courts have already given al-Maliki one victory by siding with his argument that any party leader able to assemble a large enough parliamentary coalition could be chosen to form the new government, rather than just the coalition that won the most seats.

The election left al-Maliki's State of Law coalition trailing former Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqiya alliance by two seats in the 325-member Parliament. Neither won enough to govern alone, leaving no choice but to try to cobble together a ruling coalition.

Al-Maliki has led a government dominated by religious Shiites for the past four years, while Allawi, a secular Shiite, drew most of his support from the country's Sunni minority on a campaign pledge that he was looking to transcend ethnic and sectarian divides.

Various Iraq parties have visited all six of Iraq's neighbours since the election to rally support. Members of Allawi's party have visited Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and have said they will soon go to Iran, while al-Maliki's party sent a delegation to Iran.

While no neighbouring country's government has officially endorsed a candidate, it is widely assumed that those dominated by Sunnis — in particular Saudi Arabia and Jordan — are behind Allawi.

"We want good relations with our friends, brothers, Arab neighbours, Muslim neighbours," al-Maliki said. But "such good relations can only be built on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs and the end of paternalism."

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, April 12, 2010, 23:37

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