News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqFormer premier to attend Iraq conference

Former premier to attend Iraq conference

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AP: Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, a sharp critic of the Shiite-led Iraqi government, will participate in an international conference on the country next week, an Egyptian news agency reported Saturday. Associated Press

By SALAH NASRAWI

Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, a sharp critic of the Shiite-led Iraqi government, will participate in an international conference on the country next week, an Egyptian news agency reported Saturday.

The move could spark conflict with Baghdad since Allawi is believed to be garnering support to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which he has accused of being sectarian.

Allawi arrived in Cairo on Saturday to discuss Iraqi affairs with Egyptian officials, just as the Middle East News Agency reported that he planned to attend the May 3-4 conference. Allawi is believed to have Cairo’s support, but it is unclear if the Egyptian government invited him to the conference.

MENA also reported that al-Maliki will head the Iraqi delegation to the upcoming meeting, citing Saad Mohammed Ridha, the head of Iraq’s diplomatic mission in Cairo.

Allawi, while Shiite through family history, rejects mixing religion and government and says Iraq can only survive through reconciliation with Sunni Muslims. He was installed as Iraq’s first post-Saddam prime minister and ran the country from June 2004 until his party was routed by religious Shiite parties in the January 2005 election.

Al-Maliki is said to fear rising support among U.S.-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for an Iraqi national unity government led by Allawi, a favorite of Washington.

The Sunni-led governments of the Arab world have long been suspicious of Iraq’s new Shiite leadership, blaming it for fueling violence by discriminating against Sunnis. They also accuse al-Maliki’s government of helping Shiite Iran extend its influence in the Middle East.

At next week’s conference, Arab countries will demand that al-Maliki’s government do more to reach out to disgruntled Sunni Arabs before they pledge substantial aid to the country, according to a document obtained several days ago by The Associated Press.

On the first day of the conference, officials will unveil the International Compact with Iraq, a five-year plan aimed at strengthening the role of international organizations to stabilize the country’s politics and economy.

The second day’s meetings will be attended by Iraq’s neighbors and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

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