AFP: Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secularist leaders Monday emphatically rejected Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari staying on in his post, possibly sealing the embattled Shiite premier’s political fate. by Kamal Taha
BAGHDAD, April 10, 2006 (AFP) – Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secularist leaders Monday emphatically rejected Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari staying on in his post, possibly sealing the embattled Shiite premier’s political fate.
The clear “no” to Jaafari — blamed for failing to curb sectarian bloodshed since the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra in February — came amid a renewed wave of violence that killed more than 100 Shiites last week.
Jaafari’s Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest parliamentary bloc, made yet another bid on Sunday to save Jaafari’s candidature by setting up a three-member committee to hold talks with the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs.
The committee was mandated to talk to the two minority groups without whose support a national unity government — as desired by the United States — is virtually impossible.
“We have sent a letter to our Shiite brothers explaining that our position remains the same — that of rejecting Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari’s candidacy,” Thafer al-Ani, spokesman of the Sunni-led National Concord Front, told AFP.
Late Sunday, Iraq’s Kurdish group in parliament also rejected Jaafari’s candidature.
“We have once again rejected Jaafari’s candidacy,” Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman told AFP after a meeting between leaders of the Kurdish coalition in parliament and representatives of Jaafari’s party.
On Monday, the secularist list of former premier Iyad Allawi also joined the Kurds and the Sunnis in rejecting Jaafari.
The election-winning Shiite bloc, which has 128 MPs, lacks the overall majority in the 275-member parliament needed to push through a nomination for prime minister on its own.
A senior member of the alliance said the UIA would meet Tuesday to discuss the latest developments.
Jaafari has been facing opposition even from within the alliance, with numerous Shiite MPs demanding his withdrawal, including Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, who lost out narrowly to Jaafari in the nomination race.
US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad expressed confidence the deadlock would be resolved in a “day or two”.
For the United States, a national unity government holds the key to an eventual troop withdrawal from Iraq.
As the political vacuum created over the post of prime minister continues nearly four months after legislative elections, Iraq remains engulfed in a deadly wave of sectarian violence.
More than 100 Shiites died last week in a series of bombings, some of them targeted at their religious sites in a bid to stir more sectarian killings between Iraq’s dominant community and the Sunni Arabs.
The worst was the triple bombings at a popular Baghdad Shiite mosque that killed 90 worshippers as they stepped out of the sanctuary after the weekly Friday prayers.
Five gunmen on Monday stormed the house of a Shiite family in southern Baghdad’s Al-Dura neighbourhood and shot dead three members — two parents and their son — in broad daylight, an interior ministry official said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a senior Iraqi minister have declared that Iraq was in a state of civil war.
“On a daily basis Shia, Sunni, Kurds and Christians are being killed and the only undeclared thing is that a civil war has not been officially announced by the parties involved,” Iraq’s Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Ali Kamal said.
Mubarak said in an interview with Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television Saturday “there is effectively a civil war underway now.”
But an angry Iraq hit back at Mubarak, who also enflamed Shiites across the region when he said their loyalties lay first with Shiite Iran.
“The comments have upset Iraqi people who come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and have astonished and dismayed the Iraqi government,” said Jaafari.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit and urged him to “reduce the damage done by Mubarak’s remarks and help improve relations between the two countries.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also backed Iraqi leaders, saying he believed Iraq was not in a state of civil war but that there was a “high level of slaughter”.
Iraq’s Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh said his ministry had arrested 31 employees of a Baghdad security firm for planning “terrorist activities against innocent people”.
“We discovered a lot of weapons including sophisticated rifles usually used by snipers, and also RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades),” Solagh told state television Al-Iraqiya.
On the hostages front, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed a video of two German engineers held in Iraq as confirmation that they were still alive.
A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters in Berlin that officials had spent the night analysing the video of Thomas Nitzschke, 28, and Rene Brauenlich, 32, that was posted on an Islamist website on Sunday.
In Baghdad, AFP said it had no news on the fate of one of its Iraqi employees, accountant Salah Jali al-Gharrawi, who was kidnapped on April 4 in the centre of the capital.
The US military announced the deaths of three of its soldiers over the previous two days taking the total military death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,353, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
In Fallujah, west of Baghdad, three insurgents were killed in a gunfight with Iraq-US security forces Monday when they attacked a trailer carrying goods for US forces.
The US military also said US forces killed Monday an armed woman during a raid to search for Al-Qaeda operatives, also west of Baghdad.