Friday, March 10, 2006

Stop your meddling, Iraqi minister tells US - World - smh.com.au

smh.com.au:

AMID rising American frustration with the political deadlock in Iraq, the National Security Minister, Abdul Karim al-Enzy, has rebuked Washington for interfering in Iraq's domestic affairs.

In a remarkable broadside against the US, Mr Enzy charged that it was deliberately slowing Iraq's redevelopment because of a self-serving agenda that included oil and the "war on terror".

The attack came as the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told a Senate inquiry in Washington that Iraq's political leaders needed "to recognise the seriousness of the situation and form a government of national unity that will govern from the centre, and to do it in a reasonably prompt manner".

To that end, US diplomats have demanded a more generous sharing of key portfolios among Iraq's religious and ethnic populations than the dominant Shiite religious parties are willing to concede.

In particular, they are urging the dismissal of the hardline Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr.

But in an interview with the Herald, Mr Enzy snapped: "The last time I checked, Bayan Jabr was Interior Minister of Iraq - not of the US or the UN. He is one of our best and this is interference in our business."

Mr Enzy argued that if the US-led coalition in Iraq had been more serious about rebuilding the country's security forces in the first year of the occupation, it could now be making substantial cuts in foreign troop numbers in Iraq. "We don't want foreign forces here, but it's impossible for them to leave now, because we're on the edge of civil war," he said.

"The truth is the Americans don't want us to reach the levels of courage and competence needed to deal with the insurgency because they want to stay here.

"They came for their own strategic interests. A lot of the world's oil is in this region and they want to use Iraq as a battlefield in the war on terror because they believe they can contain the terrorism in Iraq."

Asked if the West - and the US in particular - understood Iraq and the region, Mr Enzy said significant differences of culture and tradition complicated the relationship.

"We don't want to be a part of international problems - the US has a problem with Iran, but as an Iraqi government, we don't. We are not a part of the Israel-Palestine problem, but the deployment of foreign forces in Iraq puts pressure on that issue."

The minister's spiel was symptomatic of a rising anti-American sentiment among Iraq's Shiite majority. Mr Enzy said many Iraqis believed the US wanted civil war in the hope it would break the power of the religious parties still struggling to form a government.

"This is not the view of the Government; it is street talk. But it could be why the coalition forces are being targeted in the [Shiite areas] of the south and east."

At the Washington inquiry into the Bush Administration's request for $US70 billion ($95 billion) more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Rumsfeld told sceptical senators the plan was to prevent a civil war "and to the extent if one were to occur, to have … Iraqi security forces deal with it".

At the same time, Iraq's cabinet announced that 13 self-confessed insurgents had been hanged "by the competent authorities".

It named only one of them - Shukair Farid, a former police officer accused of working with Syrian fighters to enlist Iraqis to kill police and civilians.

Mystery still surrounds the abduction of about 50 guards from a private security firm in Baghdad on Wednesday.

There were claims they had collaborated with the insurgency and that the Iraqi guards were being held at a government detention centre.

But persistent government denials of any role in the round-ups of the Sunni guards heightened fears that it was the work of a Shiite death squad.

The US military has confirmed it plans to shut down the infamous Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad in the next three months.

A spokesman said that the more than 4500 people being held there would be transferred to a new US-run prison at Camp Cropper at Baghdad International Airport.


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