Iraqi PM accuses neighbours of meddling

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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