Former Iraqi Leader Calls for U.N. Role

The U.N. and Arab League must play a bigger role in Iraq because the current government there is too sectarian to solve the nation's problems, a former Iraqi prime minister said Tuesday.

Former Iraqi Leader Calls for U.N. Role
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ayad Allawi also called on the United States "and other peace-loving nations" to display the political will to help bring stability not only to Iraq but the entire Middle East.

He said the problems in Iraq remain intractable despite the arrival of nearly 30,000 U.S. reinforcements sent by President Bush this year to try to restore order in Baghdad.

"Imagine what will happen in Iraq once these forces withdraw," Allawi said during an interview in his home in an exclusive Amman neighborhood.

Allawi, a secular Shiite who served as prime minister from June 2004 until April 2005, said religious favoritism has become the norm in governing the country under the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a religious Shiite.

"That is why we believe that the al-Maliki government is not going to be capable" of reconciling Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds "because it built on the philosophy of sectarianism."

Allawi said the best hope was for the United Nations, including the U.N. Security Council, and the Arab League to take the lead in trying to reconcile Iraq's ethnic and religious factions.

"We have encouraged any dialogue that would spare Iraqi blood from spilling," he said. "We have also said that if this doesn't occur within the framework of the United Nations and without involving the Arab League, then it's going to end fruitlessly, as far as Iraq is concerned."

A Sunni Arab faction led by Saleh al-Mutlaq has asked the United Nations to send back former mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to relaunch the political process. Brahimi put together the 2004 transitional government which Allawi headed.

But Shiite parties have been cool to a bigger role for the Arab League, fearing its Sunni-led governments would show favoritism to their fellow Sunnis. Shiite-dominated Iran is also believed reluctant to give a greater role to the Arabs.

Arab countries, in turn, have been reluctant to become deeply involved in Iraq, deeply mistrustful of the Shiite leadership, which they see as too closely linked to their regional rival Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Tuesday with Arab foreign ministers in Egypt, trying to rally their support for al-Maliki's government. But Rice and Gates won no new promises of help.

Although no longer in office, Allawi remains an influential figure because he controls 25 seats in parliament and is a favorite of several Arab governments.

"We do understand that Iran may have some fears," Allawi said. "But these fears should be sorted out in dialogue between them and the U.S. within the normal diplomatic context and with the United Nations as the overall umbrella."

Allawi said he wanted to see Iran as "a positive player" that did not interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

Even if the United Nations assumed a major role, Allawi said Iraq still needs the United States, not only to help resolve problems in his country but throughout the Middle East as well.

"That's why I call on the United States and other peace-loving nations in the world to re-examine their strategies in the area, not only as far as Iraq goes, but to re-examine their strategies on the wider conflict," he said.

AP
Last Mod: 31 Temmuz 2007, 20:49
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