Baghdad (AFP) April 10, 2010
Iran on Saturday called on rival factions in Iraq to form a government of national unity following the indecisive outcome of a March 7 general election and rejected accusations of bias.
The intervention came more than a month after Iraq's election frontrunners failed to win near enough seats to form a government on their own, ushering in possibly months of coalition negotiations.
"None of the successful lists should be pushed aside," Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.
"We wish to say that the government should be formed from these lists," he said, according to an Arabic translation of his remarks in Farsi.
"It is clear that none of the successful lists can form a government on its own and that requires an agreement among the various lists," he added.
The ambassador rejected accusations that Shiite-dominated Iran was trying to influence its neighbour through its influence with Iraq's Shiite majority community, which won its way to power in the wake of the 2003 overthrow of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.
"The decision must be an Iraqi one and Iraqis ... will take only advice from others," the Iranian ambassador said.
Since the election, a series of delegations from Shiite and Kurdish factions have travelled to Tehran for discussions.
The Iranian ambassador said that next week, representatives of the secular bloc of former prime minister Iyad Allawi will also visit the Iranian capital.
Allawi's list swept Sunni Arab provinces to take the largest share of the national vote with 91 parliamentary seats against 89 for the bloc of incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki in an upset victory.
Both men are locked in protracted bargaining with various political parties to try and gain the 163 seats necessary to form a government.
Christopher Hill, the US ambassador to Iraq, said Tehran should allow Baghdad to make its own choices.
"My suggestion to him would be to leave that up to the Iraqis," Hill told reporters when asked to comment on the Iranian ambassador's remarks.
"We believe that the government will indeed be made in Iraq. It won't be made in some neighbouring country."
The US ambassador said that although the final outcome remained unclear, it was possible a new government would be in place in around two months.
"The timetable will essentially move forward," he said. "We would expect in the next couple of weeks the certification of the elections.
"We would expect a couple of weeks after that the actual seating of the council of representatives and then, after that, it would take about a month -- and it may take more -- but about a month to put together the government."
Hill urged caution on predictions on who would eventually lead a coalition as prime minister.
"It is clear that everybody is talking to everyone and, lo and behold, sometimes people say different things to different people, shocking as that might be," Hill said.
"One has to be a little careful about public pronouncements by various candidates, and even private pronouncements," he added.
"Our sense is that people expect their leaders to get going on this process. I don't expect this will go on and on and on."
The possible kingmakers in a future coalition, the bloc of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who polled well in last month's election, gaining 39 seats in the new 325-seat parliament, appeared to rule out a deal with Maliki.
"I try not to have a veto against anyone but there is a veto of the people against Maliki," Sadr said in an interview with the Al Jazeera television channel, citing grievances over Maliki's past actions.
"He is lying and he believes his lies," because he announced (two weeks ago) that he released the prisoners," Sadr said, referring to around 2,000 of his followers who are still in jail following Maliki's routing of Sadr's now dormant Mahdi Army militia in 2008.
earlier related report
"We do not interfere in (Iraq's) internal affairs. We support all Iraqis, and Iraq's unity, independence and sovereignty over its territory, and we maintain the same distance from all politicians," Saud told the London-based Asharq Alawsat.
Critics have linked Allawi's visit to Riyadh and meeting with King Abdullah on the eve of the March 7 general election with his Iraqiya bloc's narrow victory over Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance.
While the Saudis made no direct comments on the polls at the time, relations between Riyadh and Maliki's government have been strained and the Saudis have refused to establish a formal diplomatic representation in Baghdad, citing security concerns.
A centre of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia is most concerned about Shiite arch-rival Iran's potential influence over any Baghdad administration.
Observers have speculated that Riyadh could upgrade relations if Allawi, whose Iraqiya has the support of both Sunni Iraqis and some secular Shiites, is successful in forming a parliamentary majority.
On March 30 Allawi accused Iran of conspiring to deny him the premiership, but is now planning to send representatives to Tehran for talks next week, according to Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi.
Asked about the post-election visit to Riyadh by representatives of the Sadrist movement loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Prince Saud said the Saudi government welcomes visits by any Iraqi political leaders.
The Sadrists are being seen as kingmakers as Maliki and Allawi battle to be the first to build a parliamentary majority and form a government.
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Anti-US cleric denounces Iraqi PM at demo
Najaf, Iraq (AFP) April 9, 2010
An anti-US cleric who is in negotiations to form Iraq's next government openly pilloried incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday in a message to supporters at a major demonstration. Key figures in the movement of Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Baghdad, hailing a "new era" for the group exactly seven years after Saddam H ... read more
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